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. 




Film of the year 2013: Captain Phillips


So 2013 another good year for film. However one above all stayed with me and it is with great admiration that I award the excellent Captain Phillips film of the year 2013.

If you haven’t managed to see this great piece of film making please ensure it is one of the first things you rent or watch on demand in 2014. Tom Hanks gives a great performance as the captain of the hijacked vessel and in the final act……well that would be spoiling but those who have seen it know what I am eluding to.

The tension created is a credit not only to the actors involved but also to director Paul Greengrass and at the films end I hardly a finger nails left and at one point was literally on the edge of my seat. 

Many great films were released in 2013 but none matched the impact of Captain Phillips.

Some further thoughts on Captain Phillips can be found in a previous blog here.

Captain Phillips and a woman at a well.


“There’s got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people.”

“Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America.”

It’s a tale as old as time itself really good vs evil, right vs wrong,  good guys vs bad guys. However Captain Phillips takes a different slant. Yes there is still your basic good guys bad guys story line but what Paul Greengrass achieves in this fantastic knuckle chewing piece of work is not only a bit of balance but empathy for what cinema would normally pigeon-hole as the bad guys.

The film opens with scene setting from  both perspectives, That of Captain Phillips wonderfully played by Tom Hanks and the leader of the pirates, Muse who in no mean feat for a first timer (Barkhad Abdi) does some excellent scene stealing from Hanks.

The life of Somali pirates is wonderfully portrayed highlighting their circumstances that leave them with no other option than to turn to piracy. The quote above sums up their point of view and in many ways our Western arrogance and the assumptions that we make with regard not only to our place in the world but the place of others.

The rehumanisation of our enemies is nothing new, in John Ch 4 Jesus sits at a well with a Samaritan woman  This is significant not only for several reasons . Most notably a conversation with a Samaritan  would be unheard of. In that society Samaritans were the enemy, societal divisions are nothing new!  Also for a Jewish man to sit and converse with any woman people was not the societal norm.  This would not escape the attention of Scripture down the years. The biblical attitude SHOULD be to rehumanise our neighbours. The biblical attitude SHOULD be to subvert the ‘normal’ and to break through the societal barriers that hold us back.

In Belfast peace walls still exist and in fact new walls/fences are being erected. We are along way off where we should be and it will be  along journey to get us where we need to be. Perhaps its time to start our own conversations of rehumanisation and starting breaking down our societal norms.