“Bridge of Spies” was such minor Spielberg that I forgot I had watched it. While a ton of Film Twitter and beyond will defend minor Spielberg, I’m not sure that I’m willing to swing that hammer anymore. After all, David Lean made “Ryan’s Daughter” and got smacked for it. Why do we treat Spielberg better than David Lean? What about “1941”, “Always”, “The Lost World” or “The Terminal” has earned Spielberg a pass in this regard?
“Bridge of Spies” isn’t a Spielberg failure, but it’s easily a film that he should’ve passed on. Never finding its footing between family drama, Cold War thriller and legal morality play, Tom Hanks is used to sail through the choppy waters. Hanks does stellar work, as well as Mark Rylance in a role that could’ve easily been a mustache twirler. Amy Ryan gets thankless work as the emotionally supportive wife to Hanks’ legal eagle.
Added to the main drama is the film’s uneven handling of the Owens U-2 spy issue and the random American tourist getting popped at the Wall. Each angle could’ve been its own film, so let’s just slam all three together and hope for the best. While I do like seeing the Cold War brought to the screen, the matter is usually held as uninteresting to anyone born after 1989. It’s fun to yell at kids for not realizing how important that 1945-1989 period was, but we don’t give them a reason to take interest.
Ultimately, Spielberg has done better and he’s done a hell of a lot worse. It’s just how does a very mediocre job get handled within a director’s body of work that sports amazing highlights? Do we let the greater achievements whitewash a personal history or do we call out films as they come? Is it a crime that spent my time watching the film and wondering if Rylance was going to be a decent BFG next year? “Bridge of Spies” is a superficial trifle that will be forgotten as soon as Awards Season is swept into archived memory.
RELEASE DATE: 10/16/2015