It’s part spy thriller, part courtroom drama, part interrogation drama, and part Top Gun, this new war-era biopic by Steven Spielberg grasps its core audience with a philosophical depiction of America and the Soviet Union’s bonds during the Cold War. It’s an engaging study of worldbuilding for the cinematically savvy, but Bridge of Spies still could use lots of fine-tuning to make it the masterpiece that Spielberg clearly envisioned it to be.
It is 1957, the height of the Cold War, the US and the SU both sent out spies to the other side. These two competing views of the world are in a battle of wits against one another, and it all is told in under two and a half hours by everyman Insurance Lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), offering the American perspective of this great war. He gets the near-impossible task of defending Russian spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) in court, a duty that will put his public image at serious risk, both in America and by his own family. It turns out to be a far more challenging task than he expected, as it eventually takes him to Berlin during the building of the Berlin Wall to ensure this man’s freedom.
This spy is not the type of man you’d expect to be a threat to the American dream: he is always seen painting outside of the Brooklyn Bridge, trembling in his speech out of deceptive vulnerability. Right underneath his innocent complexion, he’s got a secret message hidden inside a nickel he picked from under the park bench, one that could start a possible bomb strike by the Soviet Union. Even when the FBI searches his apartment for signs of espionage, he still displays a heart for his one true passion: painting.
This is the type of role that Mark Rylance disappears into, earning him a well-deserved Oscar win for his heavily appropriate performance. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the rest of the cast, including one of my personal favorite actors, Tom Hanks. His performance is not bad per se, he just shows little range with his plainly written character.
It’s not necessarily the acting or flat characterizations that make Bridge of Spies drag, that blame goes to the lack of a reason to care about these factual events. As brilliant and perfectly staged the first half is with its interrogation scenes and character introductions, the second half drags and crumbles with each passing minute as the point fails to come across.
Instead of the seemily personal depiction of the Cold War it tries to be, it instead becomes Spielberg showing off what he’s done in past projects including Schindler’s List and Lincoln. For every scene that brilliantly combines creative edit cuts, on-edge suspense, music, and minor details, there is either a questionable female/race stereotype or an excess of the Coen Brother’s often artful dialogue that covers up the point.
Rather than showing an Irish-American hero overcoming odds to defend his family, I think a much better movie would have been made if the English-Russian Soviet Spy being defended in court was the main character. With as much dedication as Rylance had for the role, he should have been given more screentime, especially with the tremendous story his character had to tell throughout his engaging interrogation scenes with Mr. Donovan.
But instead, we have this well-attempted but otherwise unemotional drama that is trying way too hard to inspire. I wish I could recommend this film for its achievement of recreating the stark coldness of the Cold War within America and Berlin, but the difficulty to understand or care about this retelling marks this as yet another forgotten attempt of Spielberg trying to create another Schindler’s List.
It’s no secret that movies have a tendency of portraying the government as being corrupt. Or even more so, saying that people should have power over the politicians. Especially in today’s society, films like Bridge of Spies makes the American governmental system look unfair when they convict a Soviet Spy who claims that he simply wants to return home to his family. With these broken ties between the politicians and the people they’re supposed to protect, a strong parallel is drawn in how schools tend to treat students with autism, Asperger’s or Down Syndrome.
I’m not saying that all schools are unfair and unknowledgeable in autism, but sometimes schools and teachers can brush off autism as potentially curable.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #54: Individualized Education Programs Help Track Learning.
In elementary school, my teachers were all fully aware of my autism, and my parents were sure to set up an IEP to help me learn extra social skills. As well as joining the regular curriculum with the rest of the students, I would have a special teacher take me into a separate room with one or two other kids on the spectrum, where we learned about social interaction.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #48: To Homeschool or Not To Homeschool.
In middle school I was homeschooled, but was still on an IEP, although I was not as involved with the process.
Then when high school came around, I returned to public school to focus on activities and social interaction. At this point, while still on an IEP, the extra accommodations I received consisted mostly of extra time to take tests, which was established for me by a special class for students who were struggling with their grades. This helped me academically, but not necessarily with my autistic needs in the way they hoped.
Although my teachers knew I had autism, I didn’t notice much of a difference in how I was taught. While yes teachers should treat all students somewhat equally and fairly, they also need to understand their students’ unique needs. Not all students study for a test in the same way, nor will all students become experts in chemistry by the end of the semester.
To quote Albert Einstein, “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Likewise, all students are unique, and that includes students with autism.
Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces, Lesson #74: Training Should Be Given About Autism.
Our education system needs to understand that no two students are the same, each individual student has their own needs that deserve the same level of attention and development. Since it’s clear through the media that we desire for our government to understand the needs of the people, it’s high-time that we do a check-up on all authoritative bodies, for the sake of treating all autistics and human beings in general with the attention they deserve.
- Think carefully about the best schooling option for your autistic child. It may not be the public school that all kids in your area are expected to attend. You may find that another special school offers more of the attentive care that will help your child overcome personal barriers.
- If you are a teacher, do lots of research about autism, Asperger’s, Down Syndrome, and other disorders that you are likely to come across, or have already come across, in your teaching career. It is a guarantee that you will have one or two students a year to handle with these sorts of disorders, so make sure to do your homework!
- You may think that you are in no place to influence the schooling system or the governmental system, but you have the first amendment right to speak up for what you think is unfair about the way bodies of authority are run. Stirring up discussion about an issue one feels strongly about has always historically been the first step for getting problems solved.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Bridge of Spies. LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2015. Web. <http://bridgeofspies.com/>.
Cinema Siren. BRIDGE OF SPIES Video Review: Can Spielberg Conquer the Espionage Genre? Digital image. Screen Relish. WordPress, 9 Oct 2015. Web. <http://www.screenrelish.com/2015/10/09/bridge-of-spies-video-review-can-spielberg-conquer-the-espionage-genre/>.
Grant, Katie. Bridge of Spies: Stasi prisoner portrayed in Steven Spielberg film brands depiction 'totally false'. Digital image. Independent. 4 Dec 2015. Web. <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/bridge-of-spies-stasi-prisoner-portrayed-in-steven-spielberg-film-brands-depiction-totally-false-a6761186.html>.
Wells, Laura. Family reveals incredible life of Bronx lawyer immortalized by Tom Hanks in ‘Bridge of Spies.’ DailyMail. Associated Newspapers Ltd., 16 Oct 2015. Web. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3273843/The-amazing-life-Bronx-insurance-lawyer-revealed-Nazi-atrocities-engineered-Cold-War-spy-swaps-rubbed-shoulders-JFK-scuppered-plot-poison-Castro-wet-suit-Tom-Hanks-best-chance-Oscar.html>.