“Bridge of Spies (2015)” Review

Would it help?

Why did I watch it?

Another one @joenicholls put me onto. Love an espionage movie, and enjoyed the recent Hanks/Spielberg collaboration The Post.

Did it meet expectations?

British espionage stories, led by le Carré and Deighton, always seem to be complex and cynical tales of twisty double bluffs and multiple betrayals.

But in this American tale they just send an upstanding patriotic insurance lawyer to do some hard nosed-negotiating.

For the first half of the movie, Hanks seems to be channeling Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird or Gentleman’s Agreement. But from the opening he is upstaged by Mark Rylance’s Russian spy – a performance to match Guinness’ Smiley. I don’t think I’ve seen Rylance in anything since BBC Four’s live Richard II from the Globe, which was utterly captivating. Once again Rylance is absolutely superb (and it would appear he got an Oscar for it – deservedly).

The second half of the film shifts the action to Berlin as it gets its wall. It’s a fascinating and superbly realised setting, although it feels at times that the location is taking centre stage, relegating any human drama to be found in the negotiations to the sidelines. There’s a Rylance shaped hole in this section of the film, too, although Sebastian Koch does good work as Vogel, the counterpart to Hanks in the GDR.

A surprise to me in the credits – the film is co-written by the Coen brothers.

You should watch it if…

  • You enjoy (American) espionage thrillers
  • The first days of the partitioning of East Berlin are of interest

You shouldn’t watch it if…

  • You prefer speed and action to slow-build and atmosphere

Up next: A Liar’s Autobiography (2012)

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

3 thoughts on ““Bridge of Spies (2015)” Review

  1. Really enjoy a spy thriller. This was good but the ones made during the Cold War really hit the spot of gritty realism with the constant treat of MAD in everyone’s minds.
    The only one I think has come close in recent years is the Life of Others. Great film. Very easy to forget the millions of ordinary people on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

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