Release Date: October 16, 2015
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cast: Mark Rylance, Domenick Lombardozzi, Victor Verhaeghe, Mark Fichera, Brian Hutchison, Tom Hanks, Joshua Harto, Henny Russell, Rebekah Brockman, Alan Alda, John Rue, Billy Magnussen, Amy Ryan, Jillian Lebling, Noah Schnapp, Eve Hewson, Joel Brady, Austin Stowell, Michael Pemberton, Jesse Plemons, Geoffrey Rude, Michael Kempen, Michael Gaston, Dakin Matthews, Stephen Kunken
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 141 minutes
Production Company: Amblin Entertainment, DreamWorks SKG, Fox 2000 Pictures, Marc Platt Productions, Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment, Studio Babelsberg (co-production), TSG Entertainment, Touchstone Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
So it’s a period drama, based on true events, involving spies, with Steven Spielberg behind the camera? Of course I’m on board just as any other film fanatic. Arguably, every film this man has been a part of is considered a classic. In addition to holding that crown, his talents are spread across multiple genres. It doesn’t matter what the plot, goal, or company that’s behind a film is, because if Spielberg is involved, you can bet your money on it. Teaming up with Tom Hanks again was a sure sign of success. Expecting to be blown away, I achieved a solid outcome. I’m more aware of a past time, saw a great cast, and witnessed a nice conclusion. It served its purpose. What I didn’t get though, is the magic that usually comes from such a fantastic director. What’s interesting is that there’s not much to complain about, but there’s not much to praise either.
You give Tom Hanks a role, and he can pull it off. I never knew James B. Donovan, but I was convinced with Hanks’ portrayal of Donovan. What drew me to his character was his effort to get Abel home. I was able to relate to his good-hearted nature, his wanting to do the right thing and his eagerness to get a person home to his loved ones. The film mainly focused on this aspect, making you feel Donovan’s many frustrations. While Tom Hank’s portrayal was great, Mark Rylance’s take on Rudolf Abel was better. I’m not saying the man was an evil scum of earth, but despite him being a spy you would still end up being on his side. He was just a man following the orders of his countrymen. His job is honorable and the film made sure you knew this fact. It was this notion that kept you with the characters as they sorted things out. Rylance’s performance was humbling, making me a fan of his past performance and also his future performances. I will surely be on a lookout for his other projects for he’s now on my radar.
Spielberg also always throws you into the environment of the movie. Whether it’s Neverland from Hook or Omaha Beach from Saving Private Ryan, you’re always experiencing that world. I don’t know how this is done, but the amount of work that goes into the production is always fulfilled. Due to the combination of practical and special effects, I could experience the world behind the screen even this time around.
The stage was set, and I was prepared for the story to unfold. The story wasn’t hard to follow and its pacing was decent. Although after a while, there was a shift in the film’s focus. With me already starting to lose interest, this turn of events didn’t help. More than an hour passed and nothing significant had happened. The plot of the story is like a game of chess, but it only favored one player. The film did a great job on focusing on the Russian spy, but too little on the American. I wanted to know more on the side of the negotiation tactics, but only got a brief glimpse of the soft torture. From the casting alone, I was confused with the depiction of an American soldier and a foreign student. Luckily, I remembered their names and was able to differentiate between these two characters. By now it feels like the first ninety minutes were wasted, not focusing on what’s important.
Earlier I spoke of the many genres Spielberg is able to tackle. He’s a jack of all trades in that area of filmmaking. If you were to look up where this film is categorized, it falls under drama, history, and biography. If you considered the latter, this film would be a homerun. The movie is a successful story about a piece of history that happened not long ago. I walked out knowing more than before, but as a dramatic piece of art, it didn’t quite hold up. There was no tension created; the film showed neither a race against time nor a line to cross. In the war scenes, the only violence shown was a distant shooting and Hanks getting his overcoat stolen. I was not looking for a war film, but only for a story worth telling: something that stands out and sparks a conversation. This may have been achieved by some, but not me. Overall, even though this was a solid film, there wasn’t anything special that stood out, nothing worthy of the Spielberg name.