Friday, January 15, 2016

Bridge of Spies - 6 nominations

Best Picture - Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, and Kristi Macosco Krieger
Actor in a Supporting Role - Mark Rylance
Music - Original Score, Thomas Newman
Production Design, Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich (Set Decoration)
Sound Mixing - Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Drew Kunin
Writing - Original Screenplay - Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen

Bridge of Spies is a film that takes place during the height of the cold war when spying between the Americans and the Russians was paramount among the two nations.  It takes place as the wall between East and West Berlin is being erected,  with no greater symbol of the deep divide between the countries' ideologies.  In short, America discovers and captures a Russian spy (Mark Rylance) and soon after, an American spy pilot is shot down and captured by the Russians.  It is at this point in the film when an insurance lawyer, James Donovan (Tom Hanks), is enlisted to defend the Russian spy in the American courts, as well as negotiate the swap of the two spies in East Berlin.  Naturally, tensions ensue as Mr. Donovan's family becomes the target of attack for Donovan defending the enemy.  As in any spy film, there are plenty of action packed, tense moments where everything seems amiss and you are confident that all is going awry.

Mark Rylance plays this supporting role expertly as he infuses calm, wisdom, and grace uncharacteristic of an accused spy, and the writing is superb not turning each person into a comic book caricature of spy versus spy.  These people have depth, are conflicted, they are whole.  The action sequences become background for the complex development of the narrative.

I know I've explained this in prior blog years, but it's worth reminding you that Sound Mixing is the art of layering all of the recordings that go into a moment on screen so that each can be experienced and heard (especially the dialogue), and it's a difficult craft particularly in musicals and action films, which comprise the majority of Oscar nominees for this category.  In Bridge of Spies, one imagines bullets being fired at the same time as footsteps running at the same time as dialogue being spoken at the same time as original score overlaid, etc.  In a category where special effects and space battles are happening, it is hard to envision Bridge of Spies taking home the gold, but we can still respect the craft required to achieve this feat in this film.

I enjoyed Bridge of Spies.  I appreciated the tension, the acting was wonderful, and the story was interesting.  Would I call it the Best Picture of the year?  Not even close.  Would I put it in a category of Best Picture nominees? Not if I got my wish to finally return to a list of top 5 choices.  I have nothing bad to say about the film in the least.  I simply question its placement in the Best Picture category.  Still, I highly recommend grabbing a box of popcorn (or something with no carbs, if you prefer) and hunkering down with a good, solid, enjoyable film.

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