So THAT blockbuster is nearly upon us and no one needs to hype it more than it is already, but if you are looking for something a little more cerebral, drily humorous or gritty I’ve two recommendations for your delectation and delight.
Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance in a based on fact drama set at the height of the Cold War. Russian spy Abel (Rylance) has been captured and needs a decent lawyer to defend him. James Donovan (Hanks) is a successful attorney and is cajoled into taking the brief. He is reluctant but patriotism and his bosses’ pressure play a part. He may start without enthusiasm but his essential decency, his respect for Abel and his commitment to American principles of the constitution and the rule of law turn him into a terrier for this unloved foreigner. Public loathing follows when he persuades the authorities not to impose the death penalty but he is vindicated when Gary Powers a spy plane pilot is shot down. Trade is the obvious result but neither government wants to be seen to be trading so Donovan is employed, clandestinely to effect the negotiations. The films tensions, Bleak Berlin settings and acting are excellent. There are goodish guys and badish guys on both sides. It is rather smaltzy in parts but pulls few punches and while the US system is clearly portrayed as the better one the guys running it are as mixed in terms of ethics and manipulations as the other. While Hanks is the star Rylance is the class act. Most enjoyable.
Grandma stars Lily Tomlin in a film unusually and beguilingly full of excellent parts for female actors of all ages. But it is Tomlin, grumpy, contrary, and seemingly misogynist who steals the show. We learn of her bereavement, her callous break up with a recent girlfriend and the long term warring with her only daughter. When her granddaughter Sage turns up in need of $600 for an abortion they start on a journey to find the money that reveals Tomlins truer self and a life richly if at times painfully lived. There is much humour amongst the insights and ultimately a realistic ending that is far from neat but all the more real for that.
For me Tomlin should be up for the Best Female Oscar and Rylance for Best Support.