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Review: Bridge of Spies

Tom Hanks stars in DreamWorks Pictures' BRIDGE OF SPIES

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have teamed up in some exceptional movies in the past. Because of this, I don’t think you’ll find too many people objecting to them getting together once again. This time, they’re joining forces for Bridge of Spies, a unique tale of espionage that many will have high expectations for since it’s these two Hollywood mainstays right in the middle of it.

At the center of Bridge of Spies is James Donovan (Tom Hanks), an accomplished lawyer from Brooklyn who finds himself in an unpredictable position after a string of events linked to the Cold War and an alleged KGB agent. For him, what started out as an uncomfortable courtroom trial that caught the eye of many Americans turns into something much bigger when he gets introduced to the world of espionage once the CIA recruits him and convinces him to go overseas and negotiate deals on their behalf.

Like plenty of movies that are being released these days, Bridge of Spies starts off slow with not much happening in the early going. There’s an interesting chase scene in the opening scene, but everything begins to move at a deliberately gradual pace soon after that. What’s taking place during this time is the unveiling of some intimate details that Spielberg believed needed to be completely dissected for some reason.

In reality, this pace and the film’s focus at this point just doesn’t work for me all that much. It’s hard to see how they felt it was important to give us seemingly every little piece of information at their disposal since a good portion of it isn’t even truly needed. Some of what we see here is useful and might even get a few laughs out of you, but if I were sitting in a comfortable chair while watching this segment of the movie, I may have found myself sound asleep.

If and when you decide to watch this for yourself, you’ll probably agree with my belief that the start of the second act should have been the beginning of the movie. I won’t tell you what the opening of this act contains because some might not know the story, but it could have easily been used as a way to kick-start the film. Just about everything else that we see before that could have been expressed afterward by using dialog alone. Showing those early scenes slows everything down and makes the movie much longer than it needs to be.

Once the second act gets going, Bridge of Spies gains traction and moves faster as everything on the screen drastically improves. All of a sudden, all of the correct pieces come together, and we finally start to see the kind of film that one would expect from the well-trained mind of Steven Spielberg. When watching this and the final act, you clearly get why he felt this story should have been showcased in movie theaters. It’s an amazing story that had to be exhilarating for those who were actually involved back them.

Along with the humor, there’s still a ton of dialog in these final two acts, but it’s combined with the adventurous journey of Tom Hanks’ James Donovan. This allows the picture to develop some of the sort of thrills that many members of the audience would want to bear witness to when watching films about espionage during the Cold War. When that’s all finally mixed together, Bridge of Spies becomes a source of entertainment that also produces actual tension for a film that’s relatively safe and clean.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Spielberg

Tom Hanks
Mark Rylance
Scott Sheperd
Amy Ryan
Sebastian Koch
Alan Alda

Film Length: 142 minutes

Release Date: October 16, 2015

Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures

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