What verve, what style! Super-paranoid triple-agent action spy thriller starring all the best people, every scene awesome. Sure, a couple of dialogue clunkers and an overall feeling that, despite the constant life-or-death struggle, nothing really consequential is happening, but this movie is good, and I watched it at a good theater, sitting right up close.

Huge centerpiece showing in a single take how Charlize got beat to hell protecting Eddie Marsan. Poor Marsan – when you see him in a movie you just know things won’t turn out alright for him. John Goodman is CIA, Toby Jones is MI6, so who really was James McAvoy? Not a double agent, just a spy who got caught up in his own power? As Charlize runs into a movie theater playing Tarkovsky’s Stalker to hide from assassins, I lost track of the double-dealings and reveled in the self-conscious coolness.

The director is the Wachowskis’ stunt coordinator and did second-unit stuff on Jurassic World and the Ninja Turtles movies. It’s not the most promising looking resume, but damn. More evidence to check out John Wick, which Leitch codirected.

As many pop songs as Baby Driver, but used for different purposes, slinky mood music to fit the visual tone. The songs are vintage but their performances might not be – that wasn’t Ministry playing Stigmata, and some sounded like updated remixes.

Interesting and (obviously) expertly made and acted drama following U.S. lawyer Donovan hired to defend captured Russian spy Abel in American courts. He gets behind the job more than his bosses expected and is later talked into helping negotiate a trade: his client for an American spy the Russians captured, and possibly also for a student who found himself on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall.

I got mostly a Spielberg/Hanks flavor from it, but Sam Adams caught some good Coen Bros. screenplay moments:

Donovan’s first scene in Bridge of Spies shows him haggling with another lawyer over an insurance settlement – a strangely protracted exchange that bears the mark of the Coens’ habit of falling in love with their own dialogue. But the skirmish between them is linguistic as well as legal: Donovan’s opponent keeps referring to the driver of the car that crashed and injured five men as “your guy”, and Donovan keeps demurring: “We are talking about a guy who’s insured by my client. He’s not my guy.” The issue of whether Abel is or is not “his guy” is later raised in court, and it hangs over the rest of the movie. Is Donovan simply a lawyer doing his appointed duty, or has he actually begun to understand how the world looks from Abel’s point of view?

Now Playing: a Billy Wilder comedy set in West Berlin, the blacklist-busting Spartacus,
British horror with German director, and 1962 West German murder mystery based on British novel:

Appearances by Alan Alda and Amy Ryan. Mark Rylance won an oscar for playing the passive and unflappable captured spy, whose signature line whenever asked why he’s not worrying is “would it help?” Adam Nayman’s Cinema Scope writeup, which I’m too tired to type up here, gets to the bottom of some of my ambivalent feelings about the story and the cold war atmosphere.

In my 23 years of watching Joe Dante movies (and 3 years of actually knowing who Joe Dante is, heh) I don’t think I’ve seen a better one. Maybe it’s just a dreamy first impression thing, and I’d be saying the same if I’d just watched “The ‘burbs” for the first time. We’ll see. Anyway, great movie.

Set in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis at the height of cold war fever, John Goodman is a monster-movie peddler (based on William Castle of “The Tingler” fame) who’s literally coming up with new ways to shock people. I thought he’d be the movie’s lead, but not really, it’s this kid who just moved into a Florida town with a father (who we never see except in photos) who’s part of the Naval blockade of Cuba and a mom and a little brother and, if he can manage it, a girlfriend at school (a budding leftist). Kid’s new friend is trying to date a girl with a dangerous ex-boyfriend who ends up getting a job running the special effects during the MANT screening and seeing the two of them together. Oh, and the nervous theater manager has a bomb shelter in the basement. Hilarity ensues.

Movie is exciting and funny and intelligent while remaining entirely wholesome (rated PG). It’s all about the love of horror films without ever trying to be a horror film… and about growing up with the movies, the way they can reflect and affect people’s moods.

The great Kevin McCarthy as a general fighting the MANT:
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Left: our kid. Right: Dick Miller, whose cohort was played by John Sayles.
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Reportedly William Castle and Alfred Hitchcock shared mutual respect… no, really.
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MANT escapes from the screen, takes a hostage:
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Apocalyptic ending:
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