This is very, very good. It’s a slow burn and extremely understated – in fact, so understated that I cannot for the life of me figure out how some people (a few people) think that the film becomes too sentimental and schmaltzy (further proof, perhaps, that some people have their minds made up about a Spielberg movie before they watch it).
Spielberg keeps you visually invested, from the nearly wordless opening sequence introducing the Mark Rylance character to the spectacular plane crash sequence to the epilogue which brings full circle a lot of the film’s thematic ideas and visual motifs, leaving the audience to interpret their meaning. The cinematography is typical Janusz Kaminski with lots of strong backlighting and effective use of shadows, though not quite as good as Lincoln. Most interesting was Thomas Newman’s score, which is absent from the first half hour or so of the film, it arrives unannounced in a very good sequence and gets better as the film goes on. The acting is strong across the board – Hanks is just very comfortable playing this kind of character. Rylance is the one who comes off as the most interesting actor in the movie – he underplays the character well, and his complete deadpan performance is fascinating to watch.
I think the script is actually the biggest problem with it – the characters are mostly very simply drawn and some (in the case of Amy Ryan) are just not given enough to do, although that’s probably Spielberg’s fault as well as he said he cut out a lot of scenes involving the Donovan family. Either way, it’s less a film about character and more about the subtle and clever dialogue – the art of conversation, as it were. Still, this is why in my mind the film falls short, and overall it’s not quite as good as Lincoln, its predecessor, with which it shares a lot of similarities, but that’s not really a knock on it because Lincoln was fantastic and I do think that Bridge of Spies is the best film I’ve seen so far this year (at least as far as fiction films go – because the overall best film of 2015 for me is now The Pearl Button, which I only recently watched).