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-[Film Reviews]-, English Language Film Industries, Hollywood

‘Bridge of Spies’ (2015): A Mediocre Historical Drama for Your Parents


Directed by: Steven Spielberg || Produced by: Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, Kristie Macosko Krieger

Screenplay by: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen || Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Scott Shepherd, Jesse Plemons, Domenick Lombardozzi, Sebastian Koch, Eve Hewson, Will Rogers

Music by: Thomas Newman || Cinematography by: Janusz Kaminski || Edited by:  Michael Kahn || Country: United States || Language: English

Running Time: 141 minutes

It’s about that time of year when we start watching and predicting the eventual nominees for all the biggest and most prestigious Oscars — you know what I mean, a magical yet annoying season when many of us exercise our love-hate relationship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to the point where our brains start to hurt. In all fairness, I’ve begun to accept (but of course, not endorse) the Academy’s penchant for boring, depressing, dialogue-filled talkie-movies and acknowledge that these old, white-guy tastes simply come with the territory. There is little doubt in my mind that films like Spotlight (2015, directed by Thomas McCarthy of The Cobbler [2015], starring Adam Sandler!) and Brooklyn (2015) will saturate Best Picture, Director, and Actor lists, as will similar features filled with sociopolitical angst, racial/ethnic melodrama, and human rights abuses — I can’t wait!

bridge of spies montage

The best non-Tom Hanks scenes in the movie by far are the American spy’s aerial shootout (top) and subsequent espionage trial (bottom).

Old-school blockbuster directors like Steven Spielberg have started to try their talents at the Oscar-bait categories as they age into sappy old geezers (e.g. Lincoln [2012]). On the one hand, it’s depressing to see the man who directed Jurassic Park (1993), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and Jaws (1975) turn to this boring schlock, but on the other hand he brings that beating heart and Spielbergian emotion to an awards season overwhelmingly filled to the brim with dull, depressing, and mindlessly self-righteous pictures.

Case in point, Bridge of Spies debuts as the fourth collaboration between Spielberg and lead man Tom Hanks, following the true story of lawyer James B. Donovan who was entrusted to negotiate the prisoner exchange of pilot Francis Gary Powers, an American airman shot down over Soviet territory, with the Soviet KGB spy Rudolph Abel, who was held in US custody in 1957. Right away, this story sounds much more interesting than your standard Oscar-bait like The Theory of Everything (2014), Selma (2014), or Amour (2013), and it even features a neat sequence where the aforementioned Powers (Austin Stowell) gets shot out of the sky at 70,000 feet.

BoS also features plenty of Tom Hanks charm, as is to be expected from a collaboration between him and ole Steve. There is perhaps not a more likable, bankable movie star in the world than Tom Hanks, save for perhaps Shah Rukh Khan. The guy has an incessant, humorous charm about him in most every scene he’s ever acted, and BoS is no different. His chemistry with the supporting cast is excellent, especially his harassing CIA agents, and Spielberg works his invisible oners (long takes) like a charm around these playful yet intense exchanges. Together, Hanks and Spielberg weave a touching theme of dangerous, thankless jobs and an appreciation for the quiet heroes who do them.

On the other hand, despite Hanks likability and Spielberg’s personable direction, BoS remains yet another dialogue-heavy historical drama at heart, a surefire Oscar-bait in the waiting that’s sure to do far better this awards season than it deserves. The film runs much longer than its narrative or interpersonal drama warrants, at a hefty 141 minutes, and numerous scenes lack the brisk pace and tense charm that Hanks’ negotiations possess. While the ending is satisfying enough, nothing particularly arousing ever occurs and there’s little action on-screen, verbal or otherwise, to justify its long running time. Simply put, my problems with the film are its repetitive nature, slow pacing, and forgettable supporting characters.

That’s not to say BoS is a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, nor that it’s not a safe film to watch with the family this holiday season. It’s a relatively quaint, inoffensive, occasionally entertaining historical drama about an interesting period in American/Soviet history. If you’re fascinated by the Cold War era, you may mine more out of this film than the average person, but otherwise, temper your expectations accordingly on how much the idea of government institutions arguing over red tape for two hours and twenty minutes appeals to you.

bridge of spies montage ii

Left: Hanks sniffs some CIA agent stalking him. Right: Hanks looks on as his former Russian client is taken into Soviet custody.


SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Tom Hanks is as likable and funny as ever in another historical standard-bearer by Steven Spielberg, the latter of whom employs the necessary human storytelling, emotional quips, and silent editing that makes his films so uniquely him.

However… Bridge of Spies is yet another unnecessary 2 hour, 20-minute feature that did not need to be more than 100 minutes. No one besides Hanks is a standout. Much of the dialogue centers on legal and paralegal red tape, and little else.


? It doesn’t matter; it doesn’t matter what they think. You know what you did.

About The Celtic Predator

I love movies, music, video games, and big, scary creatures.



  1. Pingback: ‘Babel’ (2006): Review | Express Elevator to Hell - December 16, 2015

  2. Pingback: ‘Spotlight’ (2015): Review | Express Elevator to Hell - January 2, 2016

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