Saturday 7 July 2018

Bridge of Spies

I watched this Coen brothers film, directed by Steven Spielberg, last night and really enjoyed it. The story, based on true events, surrounds an Insurance Solicitor in 1957 whisked in by the American authorities to negotiate the release, as part of an exchange deal, of an American serviceman captured in Russia in the Cold War with a Russian spy captured in America. Not content with hatching that deal, our hero tries his hand at cracking the deal into a two-for-one, to include an American student detained dubiously in East Berlin.

It all sounds a bit complicated but actually it's not. What is complex is the behind the scenes measures and counter-measures employed by the authorities to get the upper hand over the other. It's bleak and cold, a theme used throughout the European set to further, presumably, highlight the 'cold' part of the war (after all, the European scenes could have been shot in summer!) and glum and dour. Poverty stricken people, radical acts of violence against citizens around the Berlin Wall (it having just been erected) and the unpredictability at the whim of governments, countries and their officials paint a picture of a time and place you wouldn't want to be.

The 1950's sets were just perfect. Not a thing out of place and the style and ambience of the day was captured beautifully. It was slow at times (depicting much of the waiting game being played, I guess) but the amazing, as always, central performance of Tom Hanks carries the film. It really is quite amazing how he has this presence about him. It's hard to find a film in which he doesn't only excel, but also that is in any way not engaging. I watched Captain Phillips recently and the same thought prevailed. Anyone else doing this and the film would have missed that spark he brings.

Mark Rylance was spooky, eerie and cool as the Russian spy, good old Alan Alda as a commercial boss back in America, a long way from M*A*S*H but as always, engaging, and my friend Jesse Plemons from Fargo (Year Two) popped up as an American Serviceman. Great to see him in something else, too. But the show was stolen of course by Hanks.

The two hours plus watching such a wonderful film just flies. Thoroughly recommended viewing.

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