by Heinrich Domingo
Cinema and its audience are found in an embattled relationship. The former, as a subjective art, is blunt in asserting its principles and ideologies. The latter, acting like a valued customer, denies to be lectured on what is good and right. Bridge of Spies offers a solution on this problematic partnership. It suggests that films forward their lessons through subtlety. Images are presented like enigmas while the audiences interpret them based on their own reading.
An insurance lawyer liaises United States, Germany, and Russia in a mission to save his convicted Russian spy client and two other Americans. The movie is a story on how James Donovan saved lives in an era when death is more inevitable than living – the World War II. Set in an eerily realistic backdrop, Tom Hanks masterfully plays an empathic historical figure. His performance is exact and certain giving depth to the role he plays.
Under a Steven Spielberg production are casts that suffice the rich personas found in the plot. Mark Rylance (playing Rudolf Abel, a Russian spy) added touch of realism. From his stature to his accent, he exudes the secretive agent portrayed in the film. With him are equally capable actors who played well despite having minute roles.
The film tells the historic piece without bias judgement. It is willing to convey messages without favoring one party. Prior to narration of events, characters are presented in their environment. The painting hobby of a spy, the training of military pilot, and the love affair of an economics foreign student, provide the context where the story is coming from. This shows how the film understands the burden of retelling actual events.
Spielberg’s signature treatment of looking into details is manifested in the film. Metaphors are overflowing and subplots are waiting to be unraveled. The storyline does not spoon-feed the audience rather it allows the crowd to form their own stances on what is on the screen.
The sequence of events is presented without a clear timeline. Each character has his plots and stories to tell. This may be confusing at the beginning but when these sub-plots are weaved together, they tell a unifying and complex narrative.
Also, the musical scoring was helpful in building up emotions contained in each scene. The characters need not to cry in front of the camera for their non-verbal actions already fill the screen. With this, Bridge of Spies is laudable. It can appeal to the audience without pretending to be what it is not. Many non-fiction films today have the tendency to exaggerate the events they retell but this movie supersedes this challenge.
Being a Spielberg’s work, Bridge of Spies truly has a lot to prove. But with superb acting, realistic production design, and unique story-telling, the film is excellent on its own. It is confident in its story-telling. It is certain of its production. And it is sure of its story to tell. Without trying too hard, the film captures the approval of the critical movie viewers.