Bridge of Spies is the latest historical thriller from Steven Spielberg which details a spy swap during the height of the Cold War. Tom Hanks plays a lawyer who ends up defending an alleged Russian spy (Mark Rylance) and ultimately negotiating his release.
Spielberg’s career has taken a strange journey to get to this point. His early work is notable for being acutely visual in its storytelling. His first film, Duel, has very little dialogue, and the best sequences in its follow up, Jaws, are speech free.
The Hitchcockian influence is clear both in the way he builds tension and the way he uses dialogue only when necessary. But modern Spielberg is almost the opposite, happy to rely on lengthy scenes of talking to explain what’s going on. And Bridge of Spies is no exception.
It benefits from superb performances from Hanks, Rylance, Alan Alda and the supporting cast, as well as the excellent visual quality you’d expect. Its greatest flaw is that it feels the need to walk its audience through to make sure they understand. As such it lacks some energy, and is not as suspenseful as his early work.
As quasi-historical suspense thrillers go, the latest Spielberg pales in comparison to Ben Affleck’s Argo – not something I ever thought I’d write.