TLDNW: Bridge of Spies

We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2016 Oscar-nominated movies so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

TLDNW: 1 Word

2½/4

Safe.

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★½/★★★★

A real dad-fest. A little lazy. Too many endings, not enough closure. A lesson in subtlety from Mark Rylance. Captain Philips in Russia.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Two and a Half out of Four Stars

Bridge of Spies has all the makings of an excellent film. With a consistently outstanding Tom Hanks, a tightly written Coen Brothers script, and Spielberg at the helm, how could this film fail?

Well somehow it does, and I have a few theories as to why that happened.

Let’s start from the beginning. Bridge of Spies takes place 15 years after World War Two when the US was in the grips of the Cold War. The Red Scare was in full swing and Americans were constantly in fear of a nuclear attack. A Russian spy living in America (Mark Rylance) is captured and used as a bargaining tool to retrieve an American spy who was shot down over Russia. Enter Tom Hanks, an insurance lawyer who is sent to negotiate the trade in the only place suitable for such a transaction – Berlin.

 

It’s a lovely city, if you visit outside peak hostage-negotiation season.

The main problem with Bridge of Spies is that it relies far to heavily on the experience of its ringleaders that it forgets to take any sort of risk. Spielberg is an excellent filmmaker but I think his best years are behind him. Let’s take a look at his most recent work shall we? Here they are working backwards: Bridge of Spies (2015), Lincoln (2012), War Horse (2011), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), and Munich (2005). What do all of these films have in common? They are all War Time period piece movies with too many endings.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a good War Time movie – especially one directed by Spielberg. Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan are some of my all time favourite movies and universally loved. All I’m saying is that Spielberg is a little too good at making them, which makes his most recent efforts a little lazy. Throw in a standard Coen Brothers script and you’ve got yourself a pretty cut and dry cookie cutter picture.

A fun game I like to play while watching a Spielberg movie is called “Count the Endings”, in which I count the number of times the movie could have ended but instead it carried on for longer. Even Saving Private Ryan, often regarded as one of the best war films of all time goes on for about 10 minutes too long. Spielberg just hates to leave people unsatisfied (Kate Capshaw is one lucky lady). Bridge of Spies has about 4 or 5 different endings. The movie should end on the bridge but instead we have to watch Tom Hanks return to American and have about 10 different interactions before the end credits roll.

There is, however, a saving grace in this film, and that is the performance given by Mark Rylance. In Bridge, Rylance takes a character who could have easily been forgettable or a caricature but instead shows a deep lesson in subtly. His performance garnered an Oscar Nomination, and in a category dominated often by overacting emotional characters (JK Simmons, Melissa Leo, etc.) it is lovely to see his work rewarded. Rylance shines through an otherwise fairly safe film. I didn’t feel emotionally or artistically challenged by the film, and this I think stems from a sense of predictability – even from a master such as Spielberg.

 Click here to check out the rest of Spencer’s TLDNW reviews.

 

 

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