Spielberg + Hanks = Oscars. Oscars = ?
When Spielberg and Hanks pair up, the Oscars Committee probably don’t even bother watching the film before adding it to their short list.Bridge of Spies is an exceptionally well-made Cold War piece, focussing on tense negotiations which take place within both the legal and spy worlds, carried out through an insurance lawyer who gets drafted in to defend a man who has been charged with being a Soviet Spy, and ends up playing middle-man to high-ranking spy players from both sides of the battlefront. It features yet another reliably solid performance from modern cinema’s answer to Jimmy Stewart (or perhaps even Gregory Peck), with the effortlessly affable Tom Hanks turning in another earnest depiction of unflappable decency in the face of near-insurmountable opposition.With an all-star cast, including Oscar-winning support from Mark Rylance as the Soviet spy resolved to his fate, and all orchestrated by the accomplished maestro that is Spielberg, who lovingly recreates the setting, and who benefits from a script that’s been warmly worked-over by no less than the Coen Brothers themselves, the end result is unquestionably decent. Whether it’s potential Oscar material and whether the performances within are deserving of Oscar recognition are more difficult questions, however, as some may find that Bridge of Spies is solid, but nothing more; a perfectly-engineered piece of work that is certainly entertaining, but seldom – if ever – exceptionally so.
Picture QualityBridge of Spies launches onto Region Free UK Blu-ray complete with an undeniably glamorous 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Detail is outstanding throughout, with the film’s very distinctive period stylisation perfectly bringing the Cold War setting to life, allowing every nuance of background texture and skin observation to flourish, but still lighting the stage playfully in the way that only someone as experienced as Spielberg can.
Bridge of Spies is realised on Blu-ray with a near-perfect video presentation that looks outright gorgeous.
Almost every shot is framed with a corner of background light, as if the contrast has been tweaked beyond acceptable levels, which cleverly allows the settings to promote exceptional depth without betraying the overt CG which would require the same to exist in the first place. Corridors disappear into the bright white distance, giving the sense of true depth but not actually revealing an end to the image. It’s clever, and perfectly suited to the period framework. With almost nothing to complain about – the palette manages to remain faithfully restrained, with a predominance of mahogany browns, but still vibrant and rich; black levels are outstanding, with commensurate shadow detail; and softness is largely kept at bay, and any little you find appears to still remain in-tone with the proceedings – it’s a fantastic, reference presentation.
Sound QualityThe audio doesn’t disappoint either, with a superb DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which brings the lavish, nuanced environment to life, promoting dialogue front and centre across the frontal array, clearly and coherently, whilst the sweeping score provides the emotional anchor to the events.
Whilst far from bombastic, Bridge of Spies rides high on a rich and detailed audio track.
Effects are given priority, meticulously recreating the period setting with all of its fine atmospherics, picking up on engine noises, rumbling military vehicles, the wind blowing through the blisteringly cold East Berlin backstreets, or the screech of under-or over-land trains rattling around the cities. Crowds engulf you further, and courtrooms often erupt, whilst the biggest sounds – understandably – come from above, with the spy plane sequences, albeit limited, tearing across the array and bringing with them the thunder of the LFE to boot. Overall it’s a very impressive audio track which, although unlikely to make for demo material, per se, nevertheless demonstrates the precision that can stand out even in less bombastic offerings.
ExtrasAlthough far from as impressive as the video and audio, Bridge of Spies boasts a healthy quartet of Featurettes which highlight the background into the production.
Headlined by A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies, the longest offering running at almost 18 minutes in length, we look at the origins of this project, which had personal ties for Spielberg, and the themes in the script which appealed to him, as well as the real-life characters that inspired this. There are also two slightly shorter Featurettes looking specifically at period recreations for the piece – Berlin 1961: Re-Creating the Divide looks at the history and formation of the Berlin Wall and the setting that was painstakingly and faithfully brought to life here, whilst U-2 Spy Plane looks at the real aircraft and its significance in history, as well as how they re-created it here. The Featurettes conclude with Spy Swap: Looking Back on the Final Act, the shortest offering at just under 6 minutes, which highlights the shooting practically on location and the impact of the real-life exchange, whose details were well observed here.
VerdictSolid and impressively engineered, Bridge of Spies is a decent Cold War drama, but arguably little more.
At least the video and audio are unquestionably excellent, and there's a healthy selection of extras to round off the UK package, leaving it an easy purchase for fans and probably an easy rental for everybody else intrigued.
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