Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan

When you think of a Spielberg film, especially one starring Tom Hanks, something very much like BRIDGE OF SPIES comes to mind. It will be a solid movie, featuring top-notch production values, good acting, a concrete story. What it won’t be is art. Spielberg tells a story as stolidly as any director working today. There has to be heroic actions. There has to be historical accuracy (or at least the promise of it). It has to tug at the heartstrings. In fact, the score of BOS, would be more fitting a war movie than a cold war film. You only have to look back to films like THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD or THE THIRD MAN and you will see how a film like this might have been made in other hands.

That is not to say the film is not a decent one. Tom Hanks play an attorney called in to handle the defense of a man (Mark Rylance, in a terrific performance) found spying for the USSR. Despite attempts by almost everyone to sabotage a genuine defense of the agent, Hanks gives him the best one he can. So the spy goes to jail, but becomes useful when Gary Powers, in a spy plane, is shot down over the USSR. Now it is up to Donavan (Hanks) to negotiate a trade and he does this in an honorable and drawn out way.

BRIDGE OF SPIES is interesting as an historical document more than as an exciting film. Somehow Spielberg managed to make a film where you never once worried about a man crossing back and forth in late 1950s Berlin. It is overly concerned with repeatedly portraying Donavan as a hero. We never understand how this corporate attorney is chosen to defend a spy. It cares too little about the questions of how Powers is any different from his Soviet counterpart. It rushes past an interlude with the spy’s bogus family to return to a celebration of Donavan’s skills at diplomacy. Amy Ryan does little more than stand around, wringing her hands. And the last scene is just pure corn. I hate to damn with faint praise but my goodness.

Patti Abbott
In addition to being the Crimespree Senior Film Critic, Patti has penned numerous short stories and her debut novel, CONCRETE ANGEL, is in stores now. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.