Review: Bridge of Spies


It has been 11 years since the last Spielberg/ Hanks collaboration The Terminal (2004) so to hear that they had reunited for Bridge of Spies was something that, in what to date has been a fairly mediocre year of cinema, had me very excited.

Bridge of Spies sees Hanks, as lawyer James Donavan, plucked form his day to day insurance cases to defend the alleged Russian spy Rudolf Abel played wonderfully by Mark Rylance. Already considered guilty by many Abel is to be given a ‘fair trial’ and  Donavan is caught in the crossfire of patriotism and doing what is right.

As the court case progresses we see a strong personal relationship build between the two and a trust that would have been a rarity in the Cold War period. While the relationship builds and the court case begins we see the parallel tale of a young American spy pilot take his training only to be subsequently captured by the Russians. Impressed by the fairness of Donovan the Russians reach out to him in order to make a spy for spy trade.

Cold war politics has never been so compelling. This is not the action packed spy world of Bond but rather the world of diplomacy and negotiation. This obviously involves lots of conversations in differing coms with very sparse ‘action’. However the film does not suffer for it and Hanks excels as the ‘everyday’ lawyer caught up in a situation much bigger than he could imagine.

We feel the conflict he and his family suffer from as he attempts to work through the moral maze of patriotism against doing the right thing. What is the right thing to do? What is the American thing to do? What are the values that an American should hold and how should they be acted out? Although set in the Cold War there is a very current and timely relevance to the film and the questions it poses.

Although based on true events during that period it is clear that  artistic licence has been taken and Spielberg is one of the greatest at pulling an audience’s heart strings. The familiar sweeping strings at emotive moments giving the audience little chance of resisting the emotional pull.

Bridge of Spies is a solid spy drama with great performances from Hanks and Rylance, classic Spielbergian direction and great writing from the Coen brothers it is as close to a cinematic dream team as you could hope for.

Bridge of Spies is on general release from Thursday 26th Nov 2015.

Thank to MovieHouse for advance screening access. 




Shawshank, Paris & Hope


Hebrews 11:1 ‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’

Over the last few days I’ve written, rewritten and deleted this post. What right does someone who blogs on film have to post something on Paris? I’ve wrestled with the events for days. I’ve been grumpy, downbeat and upset by every news report I’ve watched and I’ve pondered how to respond.

As a Christian the automatic response people think I should have is to open my bible and be reassured that God’s plan is perfect, everything is under control. The truth is though that at times like these those clip note verses just don’t get the job done.

That is one of the reasons I  started this blog. Sometimes a film shows me something of God that fumbling through pages of a Bible, searching for a nugget of wisdom or clarity just doesn’t do.

The events of last weekend have affected me. They have left me broken hearted. They have left me to question in truth what is the point of having a faith.

Then I remembered Shawshank. I remembered Andy and I remembered what he said about hope.

Hope might be the one thing I have left.

Hope that God is in the chaos of Paris and through his people is restoring, and healing the wounds left behind.

Hope that people see that God is not confined to pages of a book but is active around us in the smallest of things and the grandest of gestures.

Hope that in some way this insignificant blog post helps anyone else wrestling with this like I regularly do.

Why do I have faith in spite of everything?

Because faith is being sure of what we hope for and hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.



Review: Steve Jobs


A film about the rise of Apple guru Steve Jobs on paper may not sound like the most exciting film ever made. However when the that paper is written on by Aaron Sorkin I was always going to be interested. Add a dash of Fassbender in the main role and a dose of Danny Boyle in the director’s chair and I was excited before I even sat down.

High expectations can be the ultimate downfall of any review but thankfully I had nothing to fear. Steve Jobs is a whirlwind trip through the rise of arguably one of the most influential people of our time.

Set across 3 major time periods 1984, 88 and 1998 the film picks out 3 significant moments in Jobs’ career. Sorkin’s prose flits eloquently in highlighting the genius and flaw of Jobs’ character and Michael Fassbender is in excellent form (yet again) bringing this version of Jobs to life.

No punches are pulled in the depiction of Jobs. His flaws are laid bare and very apparent to the viewer. I was torn throughout trying to determine if Steve Jobs was likeable or despicable. His on-screen parenting skills, for example, need more work than his creative genius! It is refreshing to not see him lauded throughout as strangely a flawed genius may be more likeable in the longterm.

Kate Winslet, playing Jobs confidant Joanna Hoffman, almost steals the show in her role as the moral compass constantly at Fassbender’s side. Helping him to navigate business and family with simultaneous showings of adoration and brutal honesty is not an easy role but Winslet navigates it wonderfully.

The film’s ending was a little flawed for me. The attempt, at the last-minute, to tie up the loose ends and give a warm fuzzy feeling to the audience detracts from all the hard work in the balanced argument shown in the previous 118 minutes. This however is a very minor grievance and does not spoil  in any way what is a great piece of work from all involved.

The Social Network (the depiction of Facebook  founder Mark Zuckerberg), another Sorkin scripted film, is an easy and lazy comparison. However it must be noted that Sorkin has provided this cinema going generation with two biopics that take us inside the character of two men that many consider to be two of the most influential figures of our times.

His main achievement in doing so is to leave us to ponder if the characters displayed on-screen are worth our adoration in the first place?

With thanks to MovieHouse for screening access.

Steve Jobs is on general release from Friday 13th November 2015

Should my child watch this film??


When you become known for being a fan of something it quickly becomes a go to conversation topic for folk.

For me as a film addict and film club organiser in a church setting I have regular after service film chats with many different people.

This is something I love. The ‘Have you seen….’ conversation paired with ‘What did you think of…….?’ are two of the most regular conversations. More recently I have been approached by parents asking my opinion on certain films that are classified 12A. In particular they want to know if I feel the film in question would be suitable for their son/daughter to watch. I am aways flattered that they feel I’m the person to ask however the question is not easily answered.

If you are a reader from outside the UK let me explain. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) website states that a 12A certificate means that “No one younger than 12 may see a 12A film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult.”

Clear enough you may say so where do I struggle?

The problem for me lies in giving an opinion on whether or not a particular young person would enjoy a 12A film given some content can be ‘top end’ of what qualifies as a 12A and may in fact be closer to a 15 certificate .

A recent example is the Hunger Games, which, when first classified by the BBFC was determined to be a 15 (i.e no one younger than 15 may see the film in a cinema). However given the target audience for the film recommendations were made in order to reduce classification to a 12A.

When released on DVD however some of the old footage was reintroduced (blood spatter, lingering shots of corpses etc.) and a 15 certificate granted.

So how do you gauge if a 12A is appropriate for your child? In the past I have likened the argument for taking a young person to a 12A to spicy food…………Stay with me.

If you ask 4 people round a dinner table if a particular dish is spicy you may well receive four different answers.

The thing is everyone has a differing tolerance for spicy food. Some can’t cope with more than a mild korma and some love flaming hot dishes.

Likewise some young people will watch some ‘top end’ 12A films such as the Hunger Games and not be affected by anything they see. Others may not be able to cope at all with the violence and themes involved.

Ultimately only the parent knows the tolerance levels their child has for what they will see on screen. I have been in cinemas where parents have left with children as unexpected reactions are not that unusual. This is why I steer clear of a yes/no answer and instead point parents to the excellent BBFC website and advise them to look up the specific film to see what the content is. They will hopefully then be better equipped to determine if their child should watch.

No film critic or blogger like me should ever say if a young person should/can watch a particular film nor can the BBFC. The only people capable of ascertaining the best answer are those who know the young person best in this instance the parent.