“Bridge Of Spies”: What I Thought

I caught a screening of this new Steven Spielberg film over the weekend, at the New York Film Festival. It gives us Tom Hanks in 1950s New York. He plays a lawyer defending a Soviet spy. Eventually, the film moves to Berlin, where Hanks negotiates a swap for the downed American pilot Gary Powers. The movie is terribly slow at first. The chief pleasure, both in the nostalgia-for-a-clean-New-York first half and in the cold, bombed-out Berlin of the second half, is in the production values. Hanks has another of his good-guy parts, and he’s fine. Reviews (here and here) single out Mark Rylance for his dry wit as the Soviet spy, but I found the performance fairly one note. The Coen brothers did a polish of the screenplay, but their against-the-grain tendencies are sprinkled on the story pretty sparsely. Spielberg has always been better at sincerity than at irony, and despite an attempt to introduce an our-system-versus-their-system irony at the very end the picture for me was quite lacking in layers and resonances.

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