Cine Reviews: Bridge of Spies (2015)

Steven Spielberg’s latest directorial effort Bridge of Spies follows a lawyer who gets recruited by the CIA to secure the liberty of a pilot apprehended in the Soviet Union.

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Celebrated cinema icon Steven Spielberg once again brings a modern masterpiece that never ceased to deliver top-notch filmmaking. Bridge mixes the director’s passion for bringing remarkable historical events with nobility, thrills and his natural penchant for heartwarming moments. If the trailer promised a suspenseful drama, you won’t get disappointed. The movie may not have a lot of heart-pounding action sequences because it is rather dialogue-driven. Despite the lack of action sequences, one shouldn’t fret just yet. The opening sequence is one of the best scenes I’ve seen in any film from this year. The transitioning from scene to scene was perfection and it got you caught up in the mystery and intrigue. However, If you are craving for more intense moments that are bound to make your palms sweat, you can always feel and hear it through the words that the characters are spitting out. Spielberg collaborating with Joel and Ethan Coen may be unexpected but with the two as screenwriters, what more could you ask for? Their combined efforts resulted in a screenplay that is undoubtedly Oscar-worthy with evidence being their script that was marvelously written. It effects into a suspenseful and heartfelt stirring drama that generates generates tension and drama from the glorious performances of Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, as well as its triumphant artistry marked with masterful traits that broadly renders itself as pure-heartedly emotional and nail-bitingly thrilling.

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The film uses a lot of symbolism to draw out characterization and the events that could/would happen or are yet to come. Spielberg incorporates scenes that mirror one another, the most effective being the climax which represents a previous scene that could be taken into a different context as it added a strong impact to the characters that we spent time with. Bridge’s narrative is indeed reminiscent of the timeless Spielberg masterpiece Schindler’s List. Spielberg’s mastery is at level of unmatched greatness at delivering this kind of story that it becomes virtually effortless for him to. If one could pay attention much further, the film plays around the same theme as the former, yet Spielberg does it in a way that doesn’t feel repetitive but rather fresh and flavorful in its own kind of way. It could be thought of as the director paying homage to one of his most beloved and powerful works and alas, he does it so effortless that it doesn’t even come out as a surprise anymore, and of course, that turned out to be a good thing much to its benefit. This isn’t only in consideration of the man’s good track record in his filmography, but rather the fact that he is one of a kind; he is Steven Spielberg and he could make a critically acclaimed hit even with his eyes closed, and this would serve as further proof. He has once again brought a masterpiece for us to get engrossed with, and has yet again presented a cinematic gift that should dearly be taken into value with how it introduces us to a man of honor and dignity; a man going by the name of Tom Hanks.

The introduction to James B. Donovan (Hanks) came  off very naturally. You could see what his character is all about just by the dialogue he’s having during the opening sequence. That alone gave you a wonderful intro to the man you’re about to spend most of the run time with. Hanks’ onscreen presence was so magnetic that he just felt natural all the way throughout. His portrayal of James B. Donovan was on point and brought a lot of excitement. He delivered that ‘innocent yet serious’ persona with perfection and naturalism. His character represents humanity in its’ purest form and is very reminiscent of Oskar Schindler, another fan favorite Spielbergian character. The Coens enabled Hanks to bring out provocativeness with the circumstances his character is facing.It’s as if he puts us in the middle of situation and asks us what we should and what we would do. This resulted to an emotionally and psychologically affecting character that doesn’t even feel like a character anymore. Hanks’ performance is so good that basically he is the person he is portraying. Spielberg molded yet another memorable character that is undergoing a struggle with the blurring of lines between his business and his morality, his family and nation.

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He does everything without hesitation that he is willing to put his life on the line. He is so human that even though his folks are looking at him as a traitor, he does his best to do what is rightful even if it gives him a bad reputation. He thinks this way because in his eye, everyone matters and everyone should be treated right. This kind of characterization is so powerful that it moves and inspires you. Other than that, the relation between Hanks’ James Donovan and Mark Rylance’s Rudolf Abel makes a big contribution to the already great screenplay as the two’s relationship serve as the film’s emotion-filled core. In some of the scenes that the two share, you could just feel the terror, frustration, care and panic that James Donovan and Rudolf Abel emit. This kind of relationship that the two project onscreen are bound to get your eyes a little watery specially during their final scene together. Despite Hanks taking over most of the screen time alongside Rylance, a reasonable amount of light is shed on their co-stars which makes everyone involved matter even if they didn’t have a plentiful amount of dialogue.

Surprisingly, Bridge used little music as possible, either it’s the score or the songs that point out that period. This didn’t turn out to be a flaw as the absence of music/score in most scenes allowed them to become even more intense. A perfect example would be the opening minutes of the film. Editing played a key role in making the film smooth and also helped in telling the story, making it all seamless. Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography looked incontestably incredible with his gritty looking photographs that achieved the vintage feel and look the film was going for. With Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg may have just made a modern-day Schindler’s List that is less darker but is still relentless with its’ subject matter for this generation to remember. He may have just made it without even knowing it. It can even contest with Lincoln as Spielberg’s best movie post-Schindler. 

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Bridge of Spies blends Spielberg’s trademark style and The Coen Brothers’ pulse-pounding, heartwarming narrative bolstered by powerful dialogue and provocative themes. Add to that Tom Hanks’ perfected performance and you got yourself a classic-style Spielberg masterpiece made in the modern era.  A classic in the making, if you will. One shouldn’t dare miss it is as this is a cinematic offering from the heavens above and it is not that every year we get to see a film from Steve Spielberg. It is nearly flawless, yet engaging. Bridge of Spies is a brilliant example of how to make a historical thriller without dragging down and diverging away from the essence of its’ idea.

4.5/5 stars.

Bridge of Spies is now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

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