Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg, 2015) Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda

This has a specious title. It's referring (pointlessly) to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, as well as the historical Glieneke Bridge in Berlin which formed part of the border between East and West Germany, and was used more than once for the exchange of spies, as historically reconstructed here. Berlin's Tempelhof airport is also seen. The film goes to much trouble to get some things right, as this is a docudrama - a fictionalised version of a piece of history - but it also knowingly makes things up. Tom Hanks's character Jim Donovan has to look out of the train - the S-Bahn - to see people getting shot attempting to scale the Berlin Wall. This is required for a constrasting shot: when back in the USofA he looks out of another train down onto a street where citizens are peacefully going about their daily business unencumbered by walls. Donovan never saw the first view, but Spielberg or his writers (who included the Coen brothers) wanted this rather naive association. They also wanted Donovan (and his family) to be seen to suffer a bit more than they actually did.

My big revelation was Mark Rylance. I have somehow got through a long life without ever coming across this wonderful thesp. His performance in this won the film's only Oscar - deservedly. I saw a bit of the next Spielberg/Rylance film, The BFG (2016), but in hospital, when I wasn't able to give it my full attention due to recent anaesthetisation. It looked pretty bad, so I must have been out of it.

Erik Kohn in IndieWire: "Given the expectations for the role, Hanks turns in a finely tuned, jovial performance in a movie that barely gives much screen time to other characters (Amy Ryan, as Donovan’s concerned wife, barely registers as more than prop). It’s Rylance, however, who stands out as the most potent ingredient: His muted delivery speaks to a mounting sense of internal agendas that remain unexpressed throughout. It gets to the point where Donovan repeatedly asks the imprisoned man why he’s not worried, only to receive a cocked eyebrow and the soft refrain, “Would it help?”

Garry Gillard | New: 4 March, 2017 | Now: 2 January, 2022