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Bridge of Spies
BLU-RAY disk
02.29.2016 By: Chris Bumbray
Bridge of Spies order download
Director:
Steven Spielberg

Actors:
Tom Hanks
Mark Rylance

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Former Nuremberg prosecutor James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is asked to defend accused Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) only to be turned into a pariah for his vigorous defense. Sometime later, after U.S Pilot Gary Powers crashes in the Soviet Union after a disastrous mission, Donovan, as a result of his credibility with the Russians following his work with Abel, is brought to Russia on a top-secret mission to exchange Abel for the imprisoned Powers.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Steven Spielberg’s BRIDGE OF SPIES is the work of a master craftsman. While Spielberg has certainly made (dozens) of better films, this well-executed, well-acted and well-paced spy yarn is an affectionate throwback to a kind of film that’s increasingly rare these days – the big budget adult drama. In many ways, this feels like the kind of movie star Tom Hanks and Spielberg would have made in the late nineties – a time where a movie like this could have easily grossed $100 million dollars and sparked Oscar talk.

Times have changed and when BRIDGE OF SPIES came out, it did initially cool box-office, although it stuck around for months and eventually made a respectable sum. Reviews were mostly respectful, but when it wound up raking-up a bunch of Oscar nominations people were surprised as it had originally been written-off as lesser Spielberg. That it may be, but BRIDGE OF SPIES is still superbly made, with a highly literate, sophisticated screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen (markedly different from one they’d direct themselves) and cool, clear-headed direction by Spielberg. Many other directors might have tried to jazz up the material with gimmicks, but Spielberg, outside of one action sequence depicting Powers’ flight, keeps this going as a deliberately old-fashioned drama. In fact, if the Gary Powers story had been turned into a film around the time it actually happened 1960, it would have been just like this I’m sure.

Many have said Tom Hanks is like a contemporary James Stewart, and nowhere is this more apparent than here. His Donovan is a classic hero, the kind of good, wholesome, family-man we all wish we could be. Maybe the real-life Donovan was more complicated, but Hanks cuts a pretty heroic figure, reminiscent not only of Stewart but also people like Henry Fonda in 12 ANGRY MEN and Gregory Peck in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It’s too bad he was denied a best actor nomination, as he’s more worthy than a lot of this year’s crop. He’s ably supported by Mark Rylance, who was nominated and makes his Abel an intriguing enigma.

THE EXTRAS
A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies: The Blu-ray extras for BRIDGE OF SPIES are led-off by this historical-featurette, produced by Spielberg’s go-to special features guy Laurent Bouzereau, meaning this is most definitely not your standard epk. Sophisticated and intelligent, just like the film, this may be short but if gives interesting context to the film.

Berlin 1961: Re-Creating The Divide: One of Bridge of Spies’ most memorable sequences is when an American student, Frederic Pryor, winds up being arrested just as the wall is going up. This featurette takes a broad look at the history of the wall and the way it comes across in the film.

U-2 Spy Plane: As with the other featurettes, this one looks into the history of the type of plane Powers, along with how the existing planes were used (when possible) here and how the ejection scene was shot.

Spy Swap: Looking Back on the Final Act: As the title would suggest, an indepth look at the film’s conclusion, including the real locations used and the history involved.

As usual, BRIDGE OF SPIES also comes with a bonus DVD/Digital copy.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
While BRIDGE OF SPIES cries-out to be seen on the big-screen, it nonetheless looks pretty sharp on Blu-ray, with Janusz Kamiński’s noirish-lighting coming-off especially well. While not one of my favorite Spielberg’s, it says something where a simply average effort from him can dwarf the best work of the hottest of the current crop of Hollywood directors. This is one Spielberg vehicle where he makes it look easy.
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