Monday, January 18, 2016

2016 OSCARS: Bridge of Spies (2015) - Theme; Pushing Characters into Tight Corners

[Quick Summary: In 1957, a U.S. insurance lawyer is asked to defend an alleged Russian spy in court, then negotiate for a mutual spy exchange.]

Once again, we've entered Oscar season.

Once again, I have no idea what makes a script "Oscar worthy."

I do agree, though, that this script deserved a nomination.

- It's a smooth, smooth read.
- There is no fat, i.e., extraneous scenes.
- Each scene is crystal clear about intent, yet still very interesting.

However, I was most impressed how every scene showcased the theme, i.e., having the courage to make unpopular decisions.

The protagonist, Jim Donovan, is all alone in defending a Russian spy in court, and then negotiating an unprecedented prisoner exchange. He only has his conscience.

How do you show courage?  Here, the writers pushed Donovan into tight corners to:

1) Isolate him (requiring courage), and
2) Force him into making decisions, even if unpopular.

ex. "LOBBY OF COURTHOUSE

Tom Watters, Donovan in the middle, Mary on the other side.

WATTERS: Jim, you did a great job. You fulfilled your mandate, and then some. But the man is a spy, and the verdict is correct, and there's no reason to appeal it.

DONOVAN: There's ample procedural reason. We know the search is tainted, and the Fourth Amendment issues are always going to weigh more heavily in an appellate forum -- we've got a good shot.

WATTERS: What the goddamn hell are you talking about -- We were supposed to show that he had a capable defense which we did, why are you citing the goddamn Constitution at me?

DONOVAN: Tom, if you look me in the eye and tell me we don't have grounds for an appeal. I'll drop it right now.

WATTERS: I'm not saying that. You know what I'm saying.

MARY: Tom is saying there's a cost to these things, Jim.

WATTERS: That's right!

MARY: A cost to both your family and your firm.

Donovan gives a helpless look at her."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I liked how the scene above ends.  It's very clear Donovan must decide, but even he doesn't know what to do. This keeps me turning the pages.

Bridge of Spies (2015)
by Matt Charman, and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen

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