Bridge Of Spies Review

Steven Spielberg is hands down one of the greatest working directors in the world. Known as the Master of Dreams, Spielberg’s films often work over generations of movie-goers, speaking to something in every single member of the audience. Does his new film, Bridge Of Spies, have the same viewer-spanning watch-ability as his others?

Bridge Of Spies stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Austin Stowell, Jesse Plemons and Mikhail Gorevoy and is directed by Steven Spielberg. The film follows the real life story of James Donovan (Hanks) who is tasked with negotiating an exchange of spies from both sides during the height of the Cold War.

It wasn’t going to be too much of an ask that the acting be great, and each actor duly deserves the praise. Tom Hanks plays the usual “super-dad” role that he is known for, as well as showing a rugged toughness in some scenes that hasn’t been seen from him since Road To Perdition. His interactions with Mark Rylance are very well written and performed, even if Rylance’s accent hops all about the British Isles, before heading over to Eastern Europe.

Good acting is one thing, but it can only go so far. Luckily the script is one of Spielberg’s best, managing to create tension just by characters talk to each other over different sides of a table. The Coen Brothers have a credit on the script, and just like a lot of their other penned works, is full of great conversation set-pieces and filled to the brim with dark humour. Several scenes in the film had the screening I was in fill with laughter at some rapid-fire jokes at the Donovan household. This isn’t a sombre Spielberg film in the mould of Schindler’s List, Bridge Of Spies knows when to have its serious discussions and when it can have a bit of a laugh with the audience, with a repeated line by Rylance being an absolute favourite.

While the first half of the film is spent in New York, with the discovery of KGB agent Rudolf Abel (Rylance) the second half and the pulse-pounding finale take place in snow-blinded Berlin. It’s a great setting for any film, let alone a spy thriller, and calls to mind many of the other great spy thrillers of the period. The finale, set on the Glienicke Bridge, is a tense standoff as both parties try and weasel what they want out of the exchange, with a subtle hinted doom for one of the characters.

The soundtrack, by Thomas Newman (of Skyfall/SPECTRE fame) is what makes the film truly great. The inclusion of Newman’s score in specific areas turn good scenes into beautifully atmospheric ones, all it needs is the inclusion of a few bars of music. The soundtrack is heavily inspired by the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer, and sounds very much like the latter composer’s Spielberg collaboration, The Pacific. As usual, I’m listening to it as I write the review and I’m still as blown away as I was when I first heard it in the cinema.

My only real bug bears with the film are linked together, and are to do with the story/length. Bridge Of Spies is 141 minutes, and for someone like me who likes films to have a sense of brevity, it’s punishing. There are some scenes that bring up a certain dilemma that is never brought up again, and some scenes that go on for way too long. The story could have been cut down but, as usual for a historical film, scenes were probably kept in to preserve the true events that the film is based on.

In summary, Bridge Of Spies is not only a great Spielberg film, it’s a great spy thriller and character piece. Not all spy films these days have to be about sophisticated suave men (and women) blowing up extravagant villain’s hideaway lairs, Spielberg shows us it can be just as tense and as exciting watching them work together to get their men back home.

Score: 8/10 A soaring soundtrack, amazing actors and full of clever conversations, Spielberg’s done it again.


Jurassic World Review

It’s been 22 years since the first Jurassic Park wowed audiences with its CGI/animatronic dinosaurs, even if some of it was historically inaccurate. While the first film is dearly beloved by many people, the sequels The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 were not as well received. But now, 14 year after the last Jurassic Park film, can Jurassic World strike dinosaur gold once again?

Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt as Owen Grady, Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire and Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as brothers Gray and Zach respectively. Jurassic Park has finally opened 20 years after being started in the first film, but with attendance dropping, a new hybrid dinosaur is created to coax audiences back. Unsurprisingly the dinosaur escapes, rampaging through the island with over 20,000 visitors trapped on there with it.

While the first Jurassic Park famously mixed CGI dinosaurs with animatronic dinosaurs to extraordinary effect, Jurassic World is mostly set on the CGI plain, with only one or two scenes with very little animatronics. This wouldn’t usually be a problem, but it is sometimes very obvious that the actors are fighting/interacting with thin air. The detail however is exquisite, with the new dinosaur (named the Indominus Rex) as well as the batch of raptors that feature in the film, have brilliantly detailed features, making them a feast for the eyes.

Chris Pratt is our hero Owen Grady, an ex member of the military, who trains the four raptors that featured prominently in the trailers. While he’s no Jeff Goldblum or Sam Neill he does have a likeable personality that seems to just exude from him. Bryce Dallas Howard is all right in the film, but has no real personality traits unlike past female characters in the franchise, making her slightly forgettable. The two child actors though, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson raise the bar for annoying child actors in the films. Sure, the kids in the first film were kind of annoying, but at least they we quiet for many moments in the film. The two brothers Gray and Zach scream at every available moment, as well as shout really obvious things (the word “Drive!” is the majority of their combined dialogue). For me the film kept falling apart when it moved to these two characters, as we aren’t really that bothered with what happens to them.

The script is pretty weak, with several supposed jokes falling flat, as well as plot points that are never developed or brought up once and then discarded. The only really memorable lines come from Jake M. Johnson (who many will recognise from New Girl) as Lowery, a tech support character that is the comedy relief in a film that stacks a pretty high and visceral body-count. To continue with the violence, for a 12A I did feel it was pushing the boundaries pretty far. While some of the violence happens off screen, in the second half of the film we get more lingering shots over people being mutilated, with blood splashing across the screen in an almost Tarantino way. In a film that is full of people being swallowed whole, pecked to death and whose arms are being ripped off by wayward raptors, the stuff that is actually shown is quite brutal.

While some people may not have been fans of the raptors being on the side of the humans in this instalment, I have to admit they were my favourite part of the film. Chris Pratt’s scenes where he is training and communicating with them, as well as the action scene where he and the raptors track the missing Indominus Rex is thrilling and exciting but is sadly do not continue for very long. The training scene is hardly five minutes long, and the tracking scene is even less, meaning these brilliant creatures who have been talked up nearly the entire movie are in the end used poorly.

The fleeting action scenes, both man vs. dinosaur as well as dinosaur vs. dinosaur are done very well and very kinetic, with the camera swirling around before zooming in close. Several scenes used in the other films are reused in the action scenes, such as the blurry silhouette of a dinosaur seen in the back ground as well as the film becoming totally silent just for a load roar to rip through the soundtrack and a dinosaur to appear. In fact, many scenes from the earlier films are recreated, such as the T-Rex flare run and an entire segment dedicated to the old abandoned research labs. These are some of the better parts of the film, which does speak volumes about how there isn’t anything as memorable in the new version.

In summary, Jurassic World is your average blockbuster popcorn film. It has all the ingredients for one; a brand name with stellar pedigree, spectacular special effects and a stupidly contrived romance plot along with a big name star in the lead role. It’s just a shame it doesn’t do anything more than your average blockbuster.

Summary: 6/10 Fleeting fun scenes but nothing really to write home about.