Credit: DreamWorks Pictures
  • Movie

The Academy Awards are just days away — which means it’s time to buckle down and really get to know this year’s Best Picture contenders. Today’s deep dive: Bridge of Spies, a.k.a. Spielberg-Hanks 4: The Cold War Cometh.

Name: Bridge of Spies

Tweetable description: Tom Hanks, a well-to-do lawyer, is the only man who makes the Soviets and Americans get along for 5 minutes to organize a Cold War spy swap.

Movie Math: Bridge of Spies = (The Imitation Game + Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) x Catch Me If You Can

Release date: Oct. 16, 2015

DVD release date: Feb. 2

Run time: 141 minutes

Box office: $72.2 million (Opening weekend: $15.3 million)

Metacritic rating / Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81 / 91 percent

What Chris Nashawaty said: “There are moments in the film when Spielberg teeters on the brink of becoming a little too preachy and strident when it comes to his hero’s decency and idealism — when subtlety should trump heavy-handedness. But at 69, Spielberg is still taking chances. After all, it takes a certain kind of guts to risk being seen as old-school in Hollywood these days.” B+

Best Line: “I’m Irish, you’re German. But what makes us both Americans? Just one thing — one: the rulebook. We call it the Constitution, and we agree to the rules, and that’s what makes us Americans. It’s all that makes us Americans, so don’t tell me there’s no rulebook — and don’t nod at me like that, you son of a bitch.” James Donovan (Hanks) to Agent Hoffman (Scott Shepherd) on why Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) deserves a fair defense.

Number of Oscar nods: Bridge of Spies secured six nominations, tied for fourth most in this year’s competition (with Carol, Spotlight). It’s up for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance), Best Original Screenplay (Matt Charman, Joel and Ethan Coen), Best Original Score (Thomas Newman), Best Production Design (Adam Stockhausen, Bernhard Henrich, and Rena DeAngelo), and Best Sound Mixing (Drew Kunin, Andy Nelson, and Gary Rydstrom).

Bridge of Spies‘ Oscar history: Plenty — and that’s not even counting the director and star, who were overlooked this year. The Coen brothers have two wins (Fargo, No Country for Old Men) and six screenplay nominations. Charman and Rylance, the British stage veteran and Wolf Hall star, are first-time nominees, but composer Newman has 13 nominations dating back to The Shawshank Redemption and Little Women in 1995 with no career wins.

Stockhausen was nominated for 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, while cohorts Henrich and DeAngelo received their first nomination. Rydstrom’s Oscars resume is nothing short of amazing: 17 nominations and seven wins (Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing on Terminator 2: Judgment Day; Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing for Jurassic Park; Best Sound for Titanic; and Best Sound and Best Sound Effects editing for Saving Private Ryan). Nelson is nearly as accomplished: 18 nods and two wins (Saving Private Ryan, 2012’s Les Misérables). Kunin’s first nomination came with his work in Life of Pi in 2012.

Spielberg shares the Best Picture nomination with two first-timers, producers Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger, but his Oscar resume is already legendary. Bridge of Spies earned him his 16th career nomination, and he’s already won three Oscars: two for directing and producing the Best Picture winner Schindler’s List and another for directing Saving Private Ryan.

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What it’s won thus far: Rylance has piled up a stack of Supporting Actor prizes, including a recent BAFTA win to go along with his honors from the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, and other critics’ awards.

Why it should win: Hanks and Spielberg’s respective powers have waned little, if any, over the years. The former is as charming, noble, and just as James Donovan, who Abel calls admiringly the Standing Man. Cold War ideological pressures from his countrymen aren’t enough to make him buckle and prevent him from giving Abel a fair defense, or dissuade him from rescuing an apprehended student when the mission only calls for only saving a captive CIA agent. The film is distinctly Spielbergian in its look and dramatic cues — and that’s a pretty good thing. And we haven’t even talked about Rylance’s turn as the measured Abel, a captured spy resigned to his fate. Despised by one superpower and suspected of treason by the other, Abel is unflappable and steadfast in his mores.

Why it won’t win: Bridge of Spies suffers a little from the very goods. The whole project feels ripe and made for the Oscars, assembling an Ocean’s 11-like crew to take down the Academy. But it’s a very conventional story that feels even more old fashioned when it stands next to this year’s other Best Picture nominees. Plus, as well-crafted as the film is in its entirety, every member of its cast and crew has something better on his resume (except Rylance, who is the favorite in his category). In other words, there’s no urgency to reward Bridge of Spies like the campaign to crown Leonardo DiCaprio. If Spielberg and Hanks had been nominated, for director and lead actor, respectively, that might have revealed greater widespread support for the film. Instead, Rylance might have to carry the film’s flag on Oscar night.

Vegas Odds: 200/1, according to Paddy Power betting website, making it the category’s biggest longshot.

Bridge of Spies

2015 movie
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 141 minutes
  • Steven Spielberg