“Bridge of Spies” movie review

BridgeofSpiesA spy movie with very little in the way of intrigue and espionage. Touchstone, DreamWorks, and 20th Century Fox’s Bridge of Spies is a very traditional biographical film. There is nothing innately wrong with it, but there lacks anything truly remarkable or memorable either. Tom Hanks plays a very Tom Hanks character and Spielberg provides us with a very classy historic movie. Perhaps it is all just as well because the Cold War was a war of information and not high powered action. And, that is pretty well what you get in this movie. The most thrilling scenes are ones that are already in the trailer. Even James Donovan’s (Hanks) testimony before the U.S. Supreme Court was anti-climactic. Despite the fact it is based on a true story, for cinematic purposes there should have been more emotionally trying scenes or surprise. We seldom get Cold War era movies, so this is a nice addition to historic/bio pictures. Although the descriptive “thriller” has been attached to this movie, I do not find sufficient evidence in the movie to support such a claim. It is a moderate drama–neither heavy nor lite. Perhaps if John Grisham had written a book on this event and that book adapted for the screen, the film would play off more accurately as a spy thriller. As it stands, it is a historic drama. Nothing more, nothing less.

Bridge of Spies is about a Cold War era spy swap in the late 1950s in East Berlin. Suspected Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) is apprehended by the FBI in New York and placed under the counsel of successful insurance attorney James Donovan (Hanks). In an effort to show due process, even to suspected spies, the U.S. government provides Abel with a trial by his peers. Following a conviction, Hanks persuades the sentencing judge to allow Abel to live in the event they need him as leverage to trade for captured suspected American spies in Soviet Europe and Russia. Quite the brilliant move because an Air Force pilot and graduate student were both captured by the Soviets shortly after the apprehension of Abel. Follow Donovan as he makes his way to one of the most dangerous parts of Europe during the height of the Cold War in an effort to successfully negotiate a spy swap.

There really isn’t much to add besides what I have already mentioned in my opening. This movie is very par for the course. Hanks and Spielberg provide us with the quality that we are accustomed to receiving from them. I was never bored during the movie, but I was never on the edge of my seat either. Typically, I look to espionage movies for some sense of surprise or intrigue; but, this one plays it like a typical drama based on a true story. As this is not a story or event that many Americans likely know about, it provides insight into what many of the operations during the Cold War may have been like. I do feel that the dialog and character development were lacking. Hanks and the rest of the cast pretty much remain static through the whole movie. Often in movies based on true stories, I like to see dynamic character arcs or redemptions. What I find in this movie is a realistic depiction of this event that likely felt more intense at the time than what is shown of the screen. Perhaps that is it. Maybe, I would have liked the movie a lot more had there has been a pronounced thrilling nature or contained emotionally intense scenes.

If you are looking for a thrilling movie of government espionage, then this is not it. If you are looking for a well-produced biographical movie based on a true story, then this is it. I am certain that Tom Hanks plays the role of Donovan accurately and I commend him for bringing this real-life American hero alive for the screen. At the end of the day, this is a good example of an accurate biographic motion picture and Spielberg proves that he can deliver a classy true story as well as he can an action-adventure movie.

“Beaches” Throwback Thursday Movie Review

BeachesThe ebb and flow of a lifelong oil and water unchecked friendship. Touchstone Pictures’ Beaches is the timeless modern classic that is the bittersweet story of the friendship between the most unlikely of friends. Much like Universal Pictures’ Fried Green TomatoesBeaches tells two stories: the present day one concurrent with dozens of flashbacks that show the evolution of the friendship between Broadway actress turned pop-star C.C. Bloom (Bette Midler) and wealthy old money Californian Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey). Unlike the former, the latter does not play the flashback card as artistically and cinematically as well. Despite the fact that I, along with hundreds of thousands of fans, adore this film immensely, as a film critic, I cannot ignore the blatant misuse and misplacement of the flashback. However, this movie is special in that it can make even those of us who have seen it dozens of times cry every time. I think this is because that the friendship, that is displayed through the narrative, is one that many of us wish we had. Interestingly, this quintessential late 1980s movie is closely aligned with the plots of 1940s friendship sagas complete with feuds, tearful reunions, and fatal illnesses.

Beaches takes us on a journey from the Boardwalk of Atlantic City to the rocky shoreline and beaches of the San Francisco area. Follow unlikely friends Hillary Whitney (Hershey) and C.C. Bloom (Midler) through the mountains and valleys in their lifelong cross-country relationship. Hillary is a girl of impeccable breeding from a wealthy San Francisco family and C.C., an aspiring Broadway child star from the Bronx. After a chance meeting under the Boardwalk, Hillary and C.C. quickly form a lasting friendship built over the course of hundreds of letters back and forth over the years. With both women being strong-willed and stubborn, it is of no surprise that their friendship is one of jealously, competition, and resentment–however–they are always there for each other. As adults, they spend time traveling from coast to coast and despite the valleys, they always return to the mountain peak.

Due to the very lifelong-friendship movie cliches in the narrative, the audience is usually way ahead of the characters on the screen. Despite this utterly predictable plot, the audience is sucked in at the same time because of the personalities of the characters and the magic that both Midler and Hershey bring to their respective roles. The movie is pretty well straight forward and seldom deviates from what is typically expected of melodramas. It is up to Midler and Hershey to hold the attention of the audience, much like actors on a stage, because the writing and directing is very par for the course. I would venture to say that if the two lead actresses were replaced by any two other performers, that the movie would most likely not have the high place amongst modern American dramas that it does in the library of American cinema.

The Divine Miss. M’s musical talent is definitely showcased quite well in the movie, and is one reason the movie has stood the test of time that it has. For the last nearly three decades, scores of best friends have cried together while painting each other’s toe nails and drank lots of wine while watching this go-to film. Although bordering on unrealistic expectations of a lifelong friendship, the movie successfully shows us how even the best of friends can argue, fight, and still return to each other in times of need. There is something to be said about a friendship that can stand the trials and tribulations that this one does. Although Beaches lacks the spontaneity of real life, and is nearly completely constructed out of other movies, it has and will continue to be one of those films that epitomizes the idea of devoted friends and dedication to a relationship. And, who doesn’t love “The Wind Beneath My Wings”???