Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bridge of Spies (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Bridge of Spies

Actor Tom Hanks puts his trademark expressions of fear and astonishment to good use in the Cold War film "Bridge of Spies," a Steven Spielberg film that well satisfies and entertains.

Hanks plays lawyer James Donovan, who is suddenly and inexplicably thrust into representing Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a painter who is arrested on charges of espionage for the Soviet Union.

The film does an excellent job in portraying the time and place of Brooklyn in the late 1940s. Men trudge about the wet streets like human blocks of granite that lift and walk and then lift more. The entire borough is thick with fear and paranoia. Women arch their eyebrows under cat eye-glasses careful to watch for any hint of the Red Scare. Who knows what the TV might well transmit?

One morning at the office, Donovan is asked to defend Abel, an accused Russian spy, to reduce tension between the two countries. Donovan is uncertain but agrees feeling that it is, after all, the correct and moral choice.

The very first moments are a homage to Hitchcock in showing Abel on the run from four men in dark suits and fedoras. The film immediately works on the audience in showing a nondescript man keeping a cool head thru a gray flannel crowd. He is passively bumped about, a human pinball, and very nearly caught.

There is one other striking Spielberg moment as well featuring military man Francis Powers (Austin Stowell) under attack in a spy plane.

The thrilling scene could well be mistaken for the director in his salad days, showing old sparks from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Jaws." It has been often said that Spielberg  once brought TV to the movies in terms of surprises and his strength in giving us a punch is still evident.

In addition to some prime Spielberg touches, a quirky Coen Brothers flavor is easily noticeable too, in the character of Agent Blasco, (Domenick Lombardozzi) who is bumbling while attempting an air of authority. This is no accident as the Coen brothers  Joel and Ethan wrote the screenplay.

Mark Rylance is wonderful as Rudolph Abel, "The Standing Man" par excellence whose passive shape may well be a ruse.

And although a shade predictable, Hanks  does well once more as a just Everyman who knows how to proceed and keeps his hat down.

Though the drama is first rate, the true wonder of "Bridge of Spies" is that it is so perfectly of a time in the early 50s, where fear poked within the picket fence and nearly every child was terrified enough to hide under a chair and fill a bathtub up with water in the event of nuclear war.

Once upon a time, James Donovan and Rudolf Abel were aimed as human chessmen, placed on the squares of East and West. Most poignantly their movements inscribe a friendship, either by chance or in spite of themselves.

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