Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bridge of Spies

is Steven Spielberg at his pseudo-documentary best, with Tom Hanks proving yet again that he is one of the finest film actors ever.  Mark Rylance, playing Russian spy Rudolf Abel, turns in a beautiful, understated performance that is an acting clinic in itself.  Both men inhabit their characters; their every gesture and small expression is picture perfect.  No actor in this movie goes over the top; it was a joy to watch the performances.

The script, two of whose three authors were the Coen brothers, is similarly and to my surprise understated, succumbing rarely to melodrama and often letting much go unspoken, as would happen in these sorts of negotiations.

When the film did feel like it might be overdoing it--did Donovan really see a shooting at the wall?--the scenes moved quickly past and generally came across as reasonable dramatizations of the past.

In 1990, as the wall was coming down, I rode on a train from Florence, Italy to Berlin.  For a little while, the train passed along the border between what was then the two Berlins.  West Berlin was on my left, East Berlin on my right.  To the left, life was technicolor.  To the right, it was black and white, bombed-out and apparently untouched since WWII.  (I doubt that was the case, but it looked that way.)  I was stunned.  Spielberg's rendition of East Germany exactly captured that feeling.

Bridge of Spies is an old-school, understated, excellent film about a very interesting time in our history.  I recommend it highly.

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