NOPE – Early on in Bridge of Spies I was taken with the attention to detail, production value, and elaborate set pieces that director Steven Spielberg and his creative team produced to bring 1957 New York and Germany (East & West) to the screen. This film spared no expense.
Once that initial impression wore off, I found myself searching throughout the rest of the picture for something to grab on to. Waiting for something to move me.
It never happened.
This true story Cold War spy swap film is shockingly void of intensity, dramatic intrigue, or anything remotely resembling a genuine thrill.
Tom Hanks is dull and unconvincing as James Donovan, the attorney assigned the task of negotiating the prisoner exchange; and the script (co-written by the Coen Brothers, alongside Matt Charman) is plodding, heavy-handed, and redundant.
Spielberg, often criticized for being an overly sentimental storyteller, is not in good form here. The film just never materializes in to anything more than a mildly engaged, connect-the-dots bureaucratic conversation about which nation can stand on its principles the tallest. Beyond tedious. There is literally not one thrill or moment of suspense to be enjoyed.
Unlike the riveting Captain Phillips, Hanks never finds his way in to the emotional connection required to make us care about him or the spy (played by Mark Rylance) he is defending. He has become one of the those veteran film stars who has a ready bag of tricks for the camera and knows how to phone in just enough to give the illusion of conviction. But it’s a very thin illusion here. This is definitely one of his most forgettable performances, even more than Road to Perdition, a film that was at least aided by a superb musical score to cover for its clumsy casting.
Rylance, a celebrated stage actor, is certain to garner attention come award season. I would not be surprised if he is nominated for an Oscar for this role. Not gonna lie, I found his performance as dull and unimaginative as the rest of the picture.
Films in this genre can be expected to get bogged down under exposition and exhausting plot devices. Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) and Robert De Niro’s vastly underrated The Good Shepherd (2006) come to mind as recent films that still managed to strike a dangerous tone of high emotional stakes amidst the clandestine subterfuge.
I guess the fact that this was based on a true story buys it a little latitude. Not much, though.
This film’s a snoozer.
Save your lettuce – go see The Martian.