Bridge of Spies
Let the Oscar Games begin.
Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and the Coen brothers start the 2015/16 Oscar season with a bang with the first truly good movie of the year. Let's hope that they can keep the momentum going.
Bridge of Spies tells a (inspired by true events) story that may not be as well known but definitely inspiring and aspirational. Penned by Matt Charman with the Coen brothers, the story in itself was relatively straightforward but tucked beneath this Cold War drama was a simple exploration of the themes of morality, justice, faith and humanity. All of which fall directly into Spielberg's wheelhouse.
Spielberg, on his part, has directed a great movie with wide-spread popular appeal - especially with Hanks in the lead. The story had shades of his under-rated Munich and the modern classic Schindler's List, but albeit one with a more pro-American shade reminiscence of Lincoln. All his trademarks were present, lens flare (waaaaay less then JJ Abrams), back lighting, purposefully awkward angles to frame shots and even one thrilling action sequence that was done much better than most directors these days.
The film, even at 141 minutes, did not feel long at all. The pace was clipped and characters - especially foreign ones - were kept to a minimum; events unfolded as they should. Spielberg really made this film very accessible to the mass public.
However, all of this would not have been possible without Hanks in the lead. Hanks - the all american everyday man, whom Matt Damon is in the flanks to takeover - exuded a quiet and strong presence. His lines delivery was so believable regardless of how hokey they may actually be, and you really felt that he cared about the outcome - and thus you also care about it.
But, in my opinion, the most valuable actor of the film was Mark Rylance of BBC's Wolf Hall fame. Rylance gave a truly outstanding and memorable performance. He created a character with whom we can sympathise and empathise with. Without which the basis of this film would have fallen apart.
Hanks may get a Lead Actor nomination, but I think Rylance will more likely be the one to get and deserve Oscar recognition.
Amy Ryan also stood out with her small role as Hanks' onscreen wife. A strong presence with a voice and not just a long-suffering wife.
Sebastian Koch and Alan Alda round out the excellent cast.
Frequent Spielberg collaborators Janusz Kamiński and Thomas Newman did the cinematography and music respectively. Through Kaminski's lens, East Berlin seemed so desolate, harsh and cold; Newman's score was very apt and did not distract at all even during the above-mentioned action sequence unlike in most typical action movies.
With this film Spielberg and co has set the bar quite high for the rest of the awards season, and it will be exciting to see how the other contenders will compare to it!