Movie Review: “Bridge of Spies” Damning Spielberg with Faint Praise



The only thing I have against Steven Spielberg is his clumsy and inept work as a film director.  I have nothing against the types of movies he makes, only the way he makes them.  “Jaws” might not be the worst of all monster movies, but it is certainly the dullest.  There is no more annoying science fiction film dealing with aliens, however, than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,”  unless, of course, it is “E.T.” Spielberg also has the distinction of having directed “Saving Private Ryan,’ the most incompetent staging of the Normandy invasion and its aftermath ever filmed, if not the worst of all World War Two pictures.  Then there is “Lincoln,” the most excruciatingly boring biography of a historical personage I have ever struggle to sit through. “Jurassic Park” brought a new low to dinosaur movies, and “Amistad” left me longing for Jacopetti and Prosperi’s unflinching and uncompromising history of slavery in the United States, “Goodbye, Uncle Tom.”  The only times Spielberg’s movies have any quality whatsoever is when he is imitating another director, such as Stanley Kubrick in “A.I.” and David Lean in “Empire of the Sun.”


All this said, I enjoyed his latest picture, “Bridge of Spies.” Granted, it is not much of a movie. It plays more like a 1970’s television miniseries than a feature film, but the writing is tight and the two lead performances by Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, neither of whom I have liked in the past, are excellent. The picture, however, is not without its problems. Historical and geographical  inaccuracies abound, one of the most glaring being a multiplex cinema, which did not exist in 1958, showing five movies, including at least two that were made in the early sixties. I was especially disappointed with the lies they told regarding the fate of the Russian spy in one of those trite little written epilogs that tell you what happened to the real-life characters after the movie ended.


But I’m not going to harp on the movie’s shortcomings.  Not even the omission of an explanation as to why the United States were taking pictures over Russia at 70,000 feet.  Or why curare, the suicide poison the military encouraged their spies to use in case of imminent capture, was mis-identified as cyanide.  None of that really matters when the story is engaging, even when that story is sign-posted with every predictable plot twist in the book.  No, none of that matters  when you are watching a Spielberg movie that is genuinely engaging.   It is something akin how a condemned prisoner might feel after falling asleep in the gas chamber and waking in paradise rather than Hell.


“Hey, this isn’t so bad.”


6 thoughts on “Movie Review: “Bridge of Spies” Damning Spielberg with Faint Praise

  1. I’m with you on Spielberg generally, though I fancy this film for the presence of Mark Rylance, one of the great modern British actors. (At least in the theatre, and on TV drama here.) So, your last line has encouraged me a great deal, Bill. From you, that is almost five stars!
    Best wishes, Pete.


    1. coincidentally, i was directing hamlet at boston’s suffolk university at the same time rylance was playing hamlet across the river at cambridge’s ART. that was the first time i saw him. it was either 88 or 89.


  2. I didn’t see this, but I don’t want to, either. I like him as a director, but I bet you’re not surprised. Not everything I like but many of his films are tattooed on my heart. Close Encounters, Minority Report, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park….


    1. i dread it each time i sit down to watch a spielberg picture, as i rate him as the very worst of a bad bunch… i was happy to be modestly entertained rather than excessively tortured by this one. i wonder, though, why you don’t want to see it.


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