Biography Blu-ray Review

'Bridge of Spies' Blu-ray Review: Cold War drama is Steven Spielberg at his best

February 2, 2016Ben MK

Being the director behind films like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg has been responsible for giving moviegoers some of the medium's most memorable — and most emotionally impactful — stories of war. Now Spielberg is bringing to the screen a story set during the height of a different kind of conflict: the Cold War.

Set between 1957 and 1962, Bridge of Spies tells the true story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), a New York City insurance lawyer who was the unlikely choice for handling one of the most politically-charged cases of his time: the defense of alleged Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Subsequently, though, Donovan was tasked with a much bigger responsibility: negotiating with the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic to secure the release of captive U.S. Air Force pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) and imprisoned American student Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers).

With a screenplay credited to Matt Charman and the Coen brothers, Bridge of Spies isn't a courtroom drama, nor is it a spy thriller. What it is, however, is a powerful and expertly-constructed character drama, one whose narrative focuses nearly exclusively on Donovan, a man who isn't afraid to act on his firm belief that everyone — even "enemy" spies — deserves the right to a fair trial. The result is a portrait of someone who was committed to doing the right thing no matter what, whether it meant enduring negative public sentiment at home or putting his own life in danger on foreign soil.

Of course, in true Spielberg fashion, the film is also a powerful historical examination, effectively depicting everything from the climate of paranoia that existed in America during the Cold War to the tension that plagued Germany, as the completion of the Berlin Wall threatened to divide the country forever. Yet despite the somber subject matter, Bridge of Spies isn't overly dour. Instead, the movie strikes just the right balance between humor and human drama, making it the quintessential Spielberg film: the kind that will entertain you — while simultaneously restoring your faith in humanity.

Making a great film even better, Bridge of Spies Blu-ray presentation is the ideal showcase for the film's period authentic production and costume design, boasting crisp detail, flawless black levels and nicely saturated colors to highlight the color palette used by frequent Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, which features sparing use of color among a mosaic of grays, blues and earth tones. Meanwhile, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix perfectly recreates the movie's minimalist sound design, which is largely driven by the dialogue and composer Thomas Newman's score, with the occasional jolt from the sound of an NYC subway train, gunshots, a Soviet missile and the like.

Disney's two-disc combo pack includes an iTunes digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies (17:45) - The filmmakers and the cast talk about the effect of the Cold War on 1960s America, the genesis of the movie, and the real-life James Donovan, Francis Gary Powers and Frederic Pryor.
  • Berlin 1961: Re-creating the Divide (11:35) - A piece about the Berlin Wall and the production and costume design that went into recreating the atmosphere of 1961 West and East Berlin on-location in Berlin and Poland.
  • U-2 Spy Plane (8:45) - A look at the real U-2 spy plane used in the movie and the filming of a key sequence involving the U-2, plus more about the real-life Francis Gary Powers.
  • Spy Swap: Looking Back on the Final Act (5:42) - A brief look at the historical events behind the movie's final act, as well as the filming of a pivotal scene on the actual bridge where the real-life prisoner exchange took place.

Bridge of Spies is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of February 2nd, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 22 Mins.

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