Bridge of Spies is a garbage movie made for people too stupid to have thoughts or feel emotions on their own.
This review is very belated because I put off seeing Steven Spielberg’s latest film until now, after it’s mostly left theaters. I did so primarily because while I assumed this movie would be fine or even good, I know enough about Spielberg’s style to assume that this film ultimately wouldn’t resonate with me. On the other hand this movie has writing credits for Ethan and Joel Coen, whose work I generally love. The nagging feeling that their style could cut through the treacle and make this a movie I liked finally broke me down. That, combined with basically universal positive reviews and for sure Oscar consideration, brought me to the point where I felt like I should see it.
Let me be clear: going into this I expected a good movie, just maybe one that wasn’t quite for me.
Specifically I say that because it’s how I’ve come down on Lincoln, Spielberg’s last movie. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in that film cuts through Spielberg’s sentimentality and makes that movie engaging. The movie allows him the room to operate on his own terms and he does a great job. But, the way the movie is so insistent on the gravitas of everything wears me down to the point where I don’t love the movie. What makes the story interesting are very small, secret political maneuverings that add up to a lot, but the movie doesn’t really do a good job at being about those moves or even highlighting them that well; they’re just kind of there.
So, I thought the Coen brother’s penchant for writing very flawed, but bemusing characters could cut through the tropes of Spielberg’s work.
It does not.
Instead, the movie is constantly getting in the way of what seems like a fine script, strangling all the life out of it. No conversation is simply allowed to happen without the movie letting you know how goddam important and meaningful every little fucking thing is. Everything is drawn out, and drowned out, whether by long shots where nothing is happening or because the overbearing soundtrack has decided it’s time for you to feel emotions, which is all the goddam time.
This movie is awful, insufferable, and bad.
The plot of this movie is dead fucking simple, there are almost no balls being juggled at any one time and the movie still goes out of its way to make sure it’s explained everything to you over and over. This movie was a hammer trying to pound my skull flat. As such, there’s also no tension in any scene, because it’s already abundantly clear what’s going to happen.
Nothing has any weight and nothing feels real.
This also looks bad, in that everything feels fake as shit. Everything has a phony sheen to it, including the entirely gray East Berlin. This is a cartoon for decrepit old people; coddling and mushy. It feeds the narrative of individual American superiority in the way they want to see it, but without any skill or intelligence. Sure he’s defending a spy in the face of a bloodthirsty mob, but it still plays straight to the ideal of The American Hero. The movie loves to set up dumb as bricks parallels that are pointless to the story but make sure you don’t forget that America is the best. I would find the movie’s self serving nationalism and absence of intellectual curiosity kinda gross if I wasn’t so preoccupied with how poorly made it is.
I hate this movie.
The hardest cut in this movie are several pointless scenes about the son of Tom Hanks’ character’s son is being taught about “Duck and Cover” in school. What a hot take, saying that was a bad thing to teach kids. Also those scenes are pointless and don’t come to any fruition.
An interesting story becomes so goddam boring here. There are no machinations and there is nothing figured out. Tom Hanks gets put into a situation and just does his job. He doesn’t seem to ever really think about it, or even have to work hard at it, he just plods along. Over and over the idea of just doing your job is presented as the right thing. And it’s here where the different sensibilities between the script and direction really falls apart, because while the script is nuanced and assumes moral gray areas with complicated and flawed people the direction insists on this being a world of only black and white. So there’s no big speech to make the case for the moral imperative of what he does, it’s just assumed. Imagine Lincoln without Lincoln.
Instead the soundtrack works overtime, incessantly swooping in to let you know how impressed you should be all the goddam time, even when nothing’s happening. It’s exhausting over a short time, and this is a goddam two hour and twenty minute movie with a story that’s mostly split down the middle so it might as well be two identical movies.
This movie is the equivalent of being spoon fed slop because your teeth and brain have deteriorated to the point where you can no longer function on your own. I had a real bad time watching it because I still have cognitive function
And it’s got basically universal acclaim from both critics and audiences so… fuck everything.
At least it’s not The Gift.