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Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” looks to appeal to the classical side of Oscar voters

bridge of spies tom hanks headshot copy
Usually, the run up to a new Steven Spielberg film is a bit longer and more buzzed about than the one currently for Bridge of Spies. Even from the moment it was first announced as being his latest collaboration with Tom Hanks, things moved quickly and a bit under the radar, which is different. One would have expected such a potential Oscar juggernaut to try and suffocate the race early on. That hasn’t been the case, and with the film hitting theaters tomorrow, I wanted to take another look at it after its recent New York Film Festival debut and try to figure out what its awards prospects now are…

Once more, here’s a brief summary of what the movie is about. In short, Bridge of Spies is a Cold War set drama/spy thriller. Hanks stars as attorney James Donovan, who was recruited by the government to give a defense to a captured soviet spy (played by Mark Rylance) and then asked by the C.I.A. during the height of the hostilities to help rescue downed pilot Gary Powers after he’s detained in the Soviet Union, while also negotiating the swap of a Soviet prisoner held by the United States. Hanks leads the charge obviously, with Rylance in the main supporting role. Alan Alda, Domenick Lombardozzi, Billy Magnussen, Amy Ryan, and Austin Stowell also make up the main cast. Spielberg directs, obviously, with Matt Charman having written the script that was then polished up by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (yes, the Coen Brothers have teamed with Spielberg). Janusz Kaminski is the cinematographer here and Thomas Newman composes the score, just in case there wasn’t enough talent involved here.

I think the main narrative here this season for the flick is whether or not it can appeal to members of the Academy as the “prestige” picture of the year. It’s a good movie, maybe even a very good one, but not quite a great one, so it’s not an obvious lock for Oscar nominations. What it will need is voters considering it to be the classiest contender and really embracing it up and down the line like that. If it’s just another second tier hopeful in the race, I have my doubts that it can go too far, even with Hanks and Spielberg being the huge A-listers that they are. Anything is possible, but this classy/prestige route is the one that really needs to be taken here in order for a successful nomination morning.

If Bridge of Spies does appear headed towards potential Oscar love, where could that love be placed? Well, that would lead to across the board campaigns, which will consist of Best Picture, Best Director (for Spielberg), Best Actor (for Hanks), Best Supporting Actor (for Alda and especially Rylance), Best Supporting Actress (for Ryan), Best Original Screenplay (for Charman and the Coens), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. As previously mentioned, I think they should narrow it down a bit, with my current rationale being that pushes in Picture, Director (for Spielberg), Actor (for Hanks), Supporting Actor (for Rylance), Original Screenplay (for Charman and the Coen Brothers), Cinematography, and Film Editing. It probably all won’t happen for the film, but there’s certainly a chance.

On Friday, we’ll see how audiences begin to respond to Bridge of Spies, but regardless of how it does financially this week/going forward, it’s got solid critical praise in its corner and it’ll likely come down to how members of the Academy respond to it. It’ll show up on the precursor circuit, but it won’t be a major player without Oscar voters embracing it as a classy or prestige title. It’s a toss up right now as to whether or not it happens, but with Hanks and Spielberg, you know it will at least be in the conversation. Stay tuned to see what ultimately happens here with this one…

Be sure to check out Bridge of Spies, in theaters starting this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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