starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda
screenplay by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
directed by Steven Spielberg
by Walter Chaw Steven Spielberg is the great Hollywood pastry tube. He's packed to the brim with sugary, awards-season sweetness, and he extrudes little nuggets of prestige with the greased regularity of a lifelong prune-eater. In his latest bit of machine-tooled calculation, Bridge of Spies, he makes the unintentional statement during his patented unforgivable epilogue that the American public is a disgusting, moronic, animalistic mob ruled by prejudices and the media (which is the foundation of a different, good movie on the subject of Bridge of Spies)--ironic, because it's those very deficiencies in critical discernment, moral certitude, and sophistication that Spielberg has made a cottage career of taking advantage of. If it's true that all films manipulate but we only complain when they do it poorly (and it's more true than not), then let me complain that Spielberg is an absolute visual savant--proof of it in the first ten, wordless minutes of Bridge of Spies (compare it to the wordless section of Amistad)--and an absolute pandering whore in his inability to deliver an ambiguous ending. He's said as much. He's the only living director who could turn out a masterpiece from a Philip K. Dick short story and ruin it with a sunshine double-happiness lollipop of a ridiculous Hollywood ending. But have no fear: Bridge of Spies never threatens to be a masterpiece for even a moment. It's no Munich or Saving Private Ryan--more like The Terminal. Bridge of Spies is decrepit, highly-polished garbage from almost the beginning, with no relief from its elderly ministrations all the way through to the end.