Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bridge of Spies

We take the regular new arrival of Steven Spielberg films on a regular basis for granted, and we really shouldn't. Consider that this is the first movie since The Color Purple not scored by John Williams. Spielberg works with the same people regularly, but they're all getting up there, and Williams couldn't score this one because of illness.

It won't go on forever. Enjoy it while you can.

Less morbidly: It's interesting that, while I talked about Crimson Peak having an opening act that didn't do much and was contrary to Guillermo Del Toro's tendency to jump right in, Bridge of Spies does the same thing, although its introduction is even more extended. It's so good, though, and could be its own movie, and a pretty good one, even if it did mostly function as set-up.

Bridge of Spies

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 17 October 2015 in Somerville Theatre #3 (first-run, DCP)

For reasons known only to the marketing departments of the three studios involved, the promotion for Bridge of Spies seems to barely mention that it's directed by Steven Spielberg and has a screenplay co-written by Ethan & Joel Coen, and either individually would be of note, but them working together is kind of a big deal. Maybe it's because it doesn't look like a big deal, or the typical sort of thing either Spielberg or the Coens are thought of as doing. Although, really, they both tend to just make excellent movies rather than specializing in any particular genre, and that's what they've done here.

It starts with Soviet spy Rudof Abel (Mark Rylance) leaving his Brooklyn apartment, retrieving something from a dead drop, and soon getting caught. Wanting to make sure that Abel is seen to have a fair trial, the government recruits lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) to defend him. There's never any doubt of the outcome, but while the unexpectedly dedicated Donovan is taking the matter to the supreme court, pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is being recruited to fly the U-2 spy plane over Soviet territory - and when he's shot down, someone reaches out to Donovan from the other side of the iron curtain to negotiate an exchange. By the time he arrives in Berlin, there's a wrinkle - American student Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) has been caught in the wrong part of Berlin as the wall is going up.

For fans of Cold War spycraft, that segment that kicks everything off is a little delight as the perspective shifts from Abel doing small things that might go unnoticed to a dragnet of FBI agents trying to keep track of one man in a gray suit and hat in the subway of 1957 New York City. Spielberg, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and editor Michael Kahn - a team that has worked together for over twenty years - shift perspectives in this shell game masterfully, and it's just the first of several sequences that are far more elaborate than a viewer might immediately recognize. Many directors making action movies would love to include a centerpiece as good as the U-2 being shot down, for instance, and it's a bit of color here.

Full review on EFC.

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