Two to Recommend

I liked both Bridge of Spies and Steve Jobs much more than I expected.

In the case of Bridge of Spies, I often experience Steven Spielberg’s work as too sentimental or otherwise manipulative and (sorry) find Tom Hanks over-exposed to the point I’ve become weary of him. For this film, too, the preview trailers seemed boring to me.

Happy to report that my preconceptions were completely unfounded.

This true story of an American lawyer recruited to defend a Soviet spy after his arrest is classical filmmaking at its best and surprisingly understated and nuanced. I loved it and found Hanks perfect as the attorney, James B. Donovan, and all supporting cast members equally well-suited to their roles.

Bridge of Spies

The picture really captures the feel and fear of the Cold War era and also contains the lushness of big, Hollywood movies in every frame with a script that avoids clichés, spot on references, and overwriting.

It’s old-fashioned storytelling with a well-crafted script, solid performances, and a beautiful veneer.

If Bridge of Spies hits an aesthetic sweet spot in center of the realistic-classical-formalistic continuum, then Steve Jobs stretches closer to the pole of expressionism with equally pleasing results.

I always worry a bit about how writer Aaron Sorkin’s tendency to speechify will hit me, but director Danny Boyle (who jumped onto my radar over twenty years ago with Shallow Grave and Trainspotting) has range and versatility as a director and makes the most here of the unconventional story structure and the highly stylized presentation of the eponymous character.

Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender (when isn’t he magnificent?) may or may not capture the actual Steve Jobs but who cares? This is not a conventional biopic but, rather, a fascinating character study more like the remarkably interesting Love & Mercy look at Brian Wilson than the typical, Hollywood genre picture.

I was mesmerized and appreciative and see, certainly, some “truths” about the human condition that may or may not link directly in every instance to the actual person we know as Steve Jobs. I don’t know enough about him to evaluate detailed factual accuracy, but the film coheres and illuminates and fascinates as it unfolds.

Excellent supporting cast here, too, with Kate Winslet, Seth Rogan, Jeff Daniels, and Katherine Waterston.

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