Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies (2015)


GettyImages-512939266.0Mark Rylance won his first Oscar for playing Rudolf Abel, a soviet spy in Bridge of Spies. Rylance’s win seems to be generally considered an upset because Stallone was favoured to win, hence disproving the famous “comeback” theory. Being an actor whose main territory was in theatre, I don’t think many people would have expected Rylance to win over a movie star in an iconic performance either.

Bridge of Spies is good movie, but I am kinda in a “If you have seen one Spielberg film, you have seen all Spielberg films” mood now with regard to Spielberg as a director. I loved the whole old-school Hollywood feel to the film, and it certainly is very stylish, yet I can’t help but feel that a grittier and more realistic tone to it would have been better. It is not to say that the whole film is super manipulative and sentimental, but I think the residual effect of Julia (1977) was so strong on me that it influenced my opinion a little bit. Still, I liked the movie for what it is and I wouldn’t mind watching it again as I feel that I may have missed out on certain aspects (I’m not in the best of mood now, so I was a bit distracted when watching).

I guess Tom Hanks may have received a couple of votes for his performance as James B.Donovan, but ultimately all the accolades went to Rylance’s quieter and more understated performance. Hanks, for the most part, was very good although I felt like he was doing his “Tom Hanks, the all American hero” routine at times which has always been my main issues with him as an actor (ironic, given the character’s unpopularity). I feel that an actor with lesser star power might have been more effective in the role, but like I said, I thought Hanks was really good and a nomination might not have been entirely undeserved (4 for me).

I think what stood out for me about Rylance’s performance was how he managed to add little tics and facets to Rudolf Abel and make him such an interesting character. To be honest, I felt that the script made him out to be boring as heck, which is what critics of this win say, but I don’t really agree. It is clear that a lot of thought has been put into such a small and quiet performance, making Rudolf a more interesting and complex character than he seems. His quiet little glances, his sniffles, his general posture and composure always suggests something about him, and I think this is largely to Rylance’s credit. I love the way he delivers the line “Will it help?” whenever Donovan asks him if he was worried – so much could be taken away from those three words. I love the underlying humour in it, suggesting that underneath the calm facade was a badass who was always prepared for this day he is caught.

The standing man monologues was so brilliantly delivered as well, revealing so much about the character’s inner state of mine and thoughts. But I especially loved the final scene where he parted ways with Donovan. Once again, I loved the quiet fearlessness in Rylance’s voice when he said that he might be executed when he returns. But the way he portrayed his character’s gratitude to Tom Hanks was the highlight of that scene, barely obvious yet always felt. And I think this goes to show how well Rylance internalized the character, giving him more life than what was demanded from the script.

Like I said, I’d probably need a re-watch to fully appreciate this performance. My main issue is how he kinda gets kicked to one side and disappears for a large portion of the film, which can be justified since he is a supporting character, and yet I wished that there were more opportunities for Rylance to showcase his greatness. Don’t get me wrong, I love my quiet and subtle performances, but there is also a part of me that wants more. Still, a good Oscar win and definitely not “acting in his sleep” as some people say. 4.5/5 for now, though I suspect I would push it up to a 5 in the future.






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