Plot: What’s it about?
It’d be hard to make an argument against Steven Spielberg being one of the greatest directors working today. Sure, not all of his films have been successful, but he really knows how to tell a great story. More often than not, his films resonate and leave a lasting impression. With Bridge of Spies he takes us back to the 1950’s when a soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is captured by the FBI. While he largely deals with insurance cases, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) agrees to represent Abel. Donovan’s wife is more than vocal about her displeasure with James taking a case like this, but he argues otherwise. Stating that everyone deserves a fair trial. The film makes its point that Donovan is by all accounts a good man. Needless to say, the casting of Tom Hanks in the role was a wise move. Often considered the nicest man working in Hollywood, it’s not hard to see why the actor would be attracted to the role either. Tensions rise when a US spy gets shot down on Soviet soil. This leads to the ultimate trading of spies between the US and Soviets.
Admittedly, I can’t say I was eagerly anticipating Spies when I saw the previews. It just looked like the kind of talky, complicated film that held little interest to me. While, there are a couple of intense action sequences, the film is indeed “talky”, but I was surprised by how much enjoyment I got out of it. I can say I cared about the characters and the outcome as well even though it’s not the most suspenseful movie. A lot of that credit has to go to Spielberg who handles the story wonderfully, keeping the pace moving along at a steady clip. He also successfully recreates the era. The authenticity can never be denied as we see the classic automobiles, the wardrobes with various characters wearing hats as they did in that time. Credit must also be given to the film for being very accessible without feeling dumbed down. A lot of these films can often drown in exposition and heavy politics, but this one keeps us with it. While not Spielberg’s best film, it’s still a very solid effort and well worth seeing.
Video: How’s it look?
Disney brings Bridge of Spies onto Blu-ray sporting a perfect-looking 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer. I try not to throw around the terms “perfect” all too often, but there’s nothing to fault here. It’s perfect in every sense of the word. The dark scenes feature rock solid contrast and black levels with no motion, movement or anything that might distract from the image. Colors are bold, bright and vidid and as we all know – detail is simply amazing. The wide image gives us plenty of room to explore each inch of the film, frame by frame and we’re not let down. Spielberg’s direction and his trusty DP have given us one stellar-looking image.
Audio: How’s it sound?
We’ve seen in previous Spielberg films, notably Jurassic Park and Saving Private Ryan, that when it’s needed – his films can provide some amazing sound. This is the case here with a very robust sound mix and an amazing score by Thomas Newman. Dialogue is crystal clear, directional effects are used with great impact and surrounds are churning out the goods. Even in scenes that are supposed to be “quiet” there seems to be something going on with the sound. It’s amazing and really tends to draw the viewer in the film. I could go on, but I think the point has sufficiently been made – we’ve got a winner.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies – We learn of Spielberg’s history and his personal connection with the real-life events that parallel the events in this movie. Talk of casting, character development and everything else associated with the movie can be found here. This is a very good watch.
- Berlin 1961: Re-Creating The Divide – The principal members of the cast and crew share their thoughts on the Berlin wall..
- U-2 Spy Plane – Pretty much the same thing as above, only the focus is on the U-2 plane.
- Spy Swap: Looking Back on the Final Act – We get a bit of historical details and a brief history lesson as the events in the movie are pseud0-analyzed. We also get a visit with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Bottom Line
Not a classic Spielberg film, but still a very good one that deserves a look. The story is sharp and well-focused with great performances across the board. The film comes recommended.