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The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

“Bridge of Spies” Not a Hit, Not a Miss

The ways of judging the merits of a movie vary depending on the viewer’s goals and intents while watching it.  A movie such as “Jurassic World” can be seen as a numb and pointless exercise in profiting off of nostalgia and superior properties that existed before it, riddled with boring and sexist tropes and clichés. At the same time, that very same movie can be seen as a fun, suspenseful, and exciting movie that does an excellent job with using character motivations to drive the plot forward in a way that most action based movies neglect to do.
“Jurassic World” was designed to reach as wide of an audience as possible. “Bridge of Spies” refuses to do the same, despite the obvious populous appeal of a movie about a True-American saving the day.
This is not to say that the film does not have those moments of True-American resolve that tend to persist within most period pieces: the protagonist, James B. Donovan as portrayed by Tom Hanks, takes on a quality of being the true ideal of what the United States believes in, even when juxtaposed against police officers, members of the CIA, and even the Supreme Court. This is not necessarily a bad thing, or an unexpected thing, but Donovan acts as the only voice of true reason in the movie, something that is deeply ironic within a movie that spends a large portion of the film showing varying sides with different and overlapping interests.
Of course, all movies have ironies and contradictions like this one. The strength of any movie lies in how well the movie expresses its point of view in spite of the inherent contradictions that exist within any attempt to articulate a message. “Bridge of Spies,” as a movie, does an excellent job of intriguing the viewer with the intricacies of espionage through the lens of a lawyer that gets wrapped into it more deeply than he expects to, while also articulating ideas about the worth and value of human beings.
The brilliance of direction is often very quiet and understated. In a film like “Jurassic World,” there are very few moments that stand out as artistically brilliant. Artistic brilliance is not one of the goals of the movie; instead, the movie focuses on single moments to inspire emotion from the audience. Conversely, “Bridge of Spies” avoids moments that are singularly impressive and instead uses the entire length of the film to invoke a sense of artistic brilliance. The use of music, lighting, shot selection, and film grain show the true depth of Spielberg’s brilliance. And while the writing and acting is decent with the standout role being Mark Rylance as Rudolph Abel, the movie suggests more complex and complicated ideas through the cinematography than the actors or script can convey.
Of course, a movie has to be determined by the sum of its parts, and this movie is by no means a great movie. However, there is enough to look for that it is worth checking out if you are interested in the Cold War or spy movies.