The release of the Bridge of Spies international trailer has sparked a generous amount of interest. We’ve got Tom Hanks, we’ve got suspense, we’ve got history and socio-political relevance. But I’m more excited about seeing a Steven Spielberg/Coen Brothers collaboration.
Yep, two, well three, of the biggest names in the film industry have joined forces to bring us a contender for film of the year. What am I saying, Star Wars will obviously be the film of the year but there’s no denying that this is an exciting prospect for cinephiles.
Steven Spielberg is one of the biggest names in film history. His films span generations of film techniques, film trends, and movie goers and his presence continues to generate warranted buzz. Lincoln, Spielberg’s last feature film did well at the time and respectfully contributed to the burgeoning pop culture archive on Abraham Lincoln but three years have since passed and things have been a little quiet on the Spielberg front. Plenty is in the works for the established film maker but Bridge of Spies could mark a welcome return with a bang.
"Inspired by true events"
Where have we seen these words before? Well, pretty much everywhere. If it isn’t a sequel the chances are most films released these days are based on a true story, real events, true events, real story or some other regurgitated slogan. The lexicon for advertising a film inspired by true events is getting a little old. But Spielberg’s track record for bringing these historical stories to life for a modern audience is inimitably successful.
In fact there is a distinct shift in Spielberg’s filmography. His early classic cinema films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial reek of originality. Although Jaws is neither a true story or a sequel it was adapted from Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name. Fast forward to 1993 and Spielberg dropped the classic monster film of a generation, Jurassic Park. But despite this brief return to original roots Spielberg continued to show a deft hand at adapting true stories into major feature films.
Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal and Munich mark some of his finest work and it appears that Bridge of Spies will fit right in with its established predecessors. But “Inspired by true events” represents more than just a continuation of Spielberg’s demonstrated quality in this field. It relates to his collaborators also.
The Coen Brothers, masters of writing, originality and off-beat seriousness tread off their beaten path once more, after the Angelina Jolie directed Unbroken, also based on true events. Known predominantly for their cult acclaim The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men and Fargo are often listed as cinema greats but while their writing is revered in these home-directed classics the Bridge of Spies marks another away-directed film to go alongside the largely successful Unbroken.
To fans of Fargo it’s no secret that it wasn’t actually a true story as the understandably misleading “This is a true story” opener predicates. As such, caution has been taken by viewers of the Coen’s recent filmography since this humorous rejection of film making etiquette. But a simple google search will put all suspicions aside about the upcoming Bridge of Spies collaboration with Spielberg. With Joel and Ethan penning the screenplay it promises to be an intricate story that borrows from their established formula but also absconds from more defining trademarks.
For such a tense period of paranoia in a war of information and security the Cold War has provided historians with a wealth of research possibilities. But it has also provided film makers with an even greater opportunity to explore a controversial and frightening period of recent history. However, despite the number of films set during this fascinating period there are very few that reach the heights of cult classics such as the satirical Dr. Strangelove or more recently the realistic The Lives of Others. Both are different but both portray the fear surrounding the Cold War with delicate attention to detail.
With Spielberg at the helm there will be a rich focus on film technique, continuity and a strong manipulation of suspense. Combined with a fleshed out script from the Coen Brothers, Bridge of Spies promises to be an exciting prospect as we build toward the year’s most anticipated releases.
Currently standing at Checkpoint Charlie only time will tell if this Cold War collaboration will end in disaster, confined to a damp cell awaiting torture at the hands of the hard-nosed critic. Or will it successfully negotiate an historical adaptation of such an indelible period in international affairs and revive the Spielberg/Hanks partnership.