Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bridge of Spies (2015) World Premieres at The New York Film Festival 2015

I am still enough of a film geek that the thought of actually going to a screening that is a Steven Spielberg World Premiere warms the cockles of my heart. I say this because when the chance to see the film with Spielberg in the house plus all of the red carpet insanity presented itself I took it.
Not my best Spielberg picture, but the one of him on the red carpet
Sue me. But the chance to see Spielberg on the red carpet is just really freaking cool, I don't care where you're from.

The film tells the story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks) a high level insurance attorney who earned a reputation for fairness and belief in the American way when he served in the Army at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. When the government comes to his firm asking that he defend suspected spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) he takes the case. The case puts his and family's life in danger since most people feel that Abel should just be strung up. Donovan feels otherwise saying the one thing that makes us different than our enemies is we have a "rule book" and we stick to it. This attitude has him clash with the CIA who wants him to tell them about his talks with his client (he refuses). When the Soviet's shoot down a U2 Spy plane Donovan is thrown into a tense political situation as the American's have to rush to try and get their pilot back before he tells all he knows.

A huge Hollywood production this is the sort of film that they really don't make any more. This is the sort of film we might have gotten in the early 1960's except that it would have been politically impossible, especially since Abel is portrayed as a just a guy doing his job and not a psychopath out for world domination. Its a heady mix of history and politics as the film makes clear that while it easier to do the emotionally enjoyable thing-in this case killing Abel   after we squeeze him for all he knows- the more honorable thing and the thing that the country was founded on was and is due process of law. I'm sure it will give the political right kittens.

I thoroughly enjoyed the the film. I just got lost in it somewhere and I completely found the two hours plus blew by despite sitting on uncomfortable seats in one of the boxes. This is an Oscar bait film that actually deserves to be in the discussion- though I doubt, outside of Mark Rylance's performance for the ages turn as Abel it will have much of a chance of winning.

While the film is a blast to watch it isn't without it's flaws. The biggest problem is that outside of Tom Hank's Donovan and Rylance's Abel everyone blends together. Who are all of the people and why are people like Alan Alda and Amy Ryan in the film when they have nothing to do? I suspect that the film as supposed to be much longer but was cut down and all of the supporting roles disappeared.

I really liked the film a great deal.

Actually what I really liked was that the emotion the film generates at the end  for the characters is genuine and is earned. We are moved because what happened genuinely moves us. I say this because two of the big films at The New York Film Festival provoked a reaction in their endings that are in no way deserved- THE WALK moves the audience with reference to 911 which is completely out of place while STEVE JOBS turns all warm and touchy feely in its final five minutes when it throws away two hours of Jobs being a dick to make him into a great guy and loving father. In both those cases I wanted to take a bath to get the stink off me, while with BRIDGE OF SPIES I wanted to go tell some one I just saw a great film.
Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Mark Rylance Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and  moderator Kent Jones

After the screening the Spielberg and the cast sat down for a Q&A. It was mixed affair part congratulations (Ryance's and Hank's hats took a beating) and part informational discussion. For me the best part was when the daughter of James Donovan stood up in the audience and talked about her father and his attempt to meet Abel again years later. It wasn't to be.

The film has finished at the New York Film Festival and will open in theaters October 16th.
Steven Spielberg and his cast in the filmmaker's box after the New York Film Festival Premiere

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