‘Bridge of Spies’ is best-reviewed Steven Spielberg movie since ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Bridge of Spies,” Steven Spielberg‘s Cold War drama starring Tom Hanks, opened Friday to the best reviews for these old friends since their collaboration on “Saving Private Ryan” back in 1998. Both pictures merited a score of 92 at Rotten Tomatoes (compare that to 90 for “Lincoln” and 96 for “Schindler’s List”). Read excerpts from the rave reviews below.

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Critics are heaping praise on Spielberg’s deft helming and Hanks’ portrayal of James Donovan, an insurance lawyer tasked first with defending Russian spy Rudolf Abel and then with negotiating a prisoner exchange with Soviet and East German officials. And they are singling out Mark Rylance for his work as the traitor. According to our official Gold Derby odds, all three men are likely to reap Oscar bids. 

We are also predicting that the Coen brothers and Matt Charman will be nominated for their original screenplay. Also looking like strong contenders are four past Oscar winners among the craft team — cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, editor Michael Kahn, production designer Adam Stockhausen  and composer Thomas Newman — as well as costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone.

According to our Oscar experts — 20 top Hollywood journalists who cover this beat for major media including Variety, Yahoo, USA Today, and Huffington Post — “Bridge of Spies” is a shoo-in for a nomination. Click on the chart to the right to see our up-to-date Oscar odds and rankings.

One of our Oscar Experts — Gold Derby’s Jack Matthews — is predicting it’ll win Best Picture. “In the year of the true story in movies, Spielberg’s ‘Bridge of Spies’ strikes me as a sure contender,” he explains. “Spielberg’s name above the title ensures interest among Oscar voters, the Coen brothers’ revision of the script ensures a solid story and Hanks in the lead role ensures a riveting central character.”

If “Bridge of Spies” reaps a Best Picture bid, Spielberg will have the most among any living filmmaker and will break his current tie with the late John Ford. And he will be just three behind William Wyler who directed 13 Best Picture nominees, including three winners (“Mrs. Miniver” in 1944, “The Best Years of Our Lives” in 1946 and “Ben-Hur” in 1959). 

Spielberg has earned 15 Oscar nominations in his career, winning twice for directing (“Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”) and once for producing (“Schindler’s List”). Hanks is a two-time Best Actor champ (“Philadelphia” in 1993; “Forrest Gump” in 1994) who hasn’t been nominated since “Cast Away” in 2000. Awards pundits were shocked two years ago when he was snubbed for both “Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks,” so he’s overdue for an Oscar comeback. And Rylance, a respected stage star, has won three Tony Awards. 

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
“Spielberg, a director with more than 40 years of experience whose superior filmmaking skills have been with us for so long it’s tempting to take them for granted, which would be a mistake. Storytelling this proficient is never something we see every day. Longtime associates like 

Manohla DargisNew York Times
“Spielberg heats up the drama with some action, throws in crowds and chaos, and transforms ordinary spaces like a home, an office and a street into battlefields. None are more ominous than the funereal rooms in which cold, gray men move lives like chess pieces.”

Brian TruittUSA Today
“Hanks is, as usual, rock solid as Donovan, giving an extra air of humanity to a rookie wading into the rough and murky waters of espionage. The Coen brothers boost the ‘Spies’ script, especially in the interactions between Donovan and Abel as they forge a friendship, Rylance, a known commodity to the PBS faithful of ‘Wolf Hall’ and super-fans of the English stage, is a brilliant revelation here to everyone else.”

Chris NashawatyEntertainment Weekly
“Hanks is in his comfort zone as Donovan, showing us a decent man grappling with history and his own civic ideals. But there’s also a rascally twinkle in his eye that shows us that Donovan is more than just a red-white-and-blue father and husband in over his head. Part of him is getting off on the cloak-and-dagger rush of it all. It’s the actor’s best performance since ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ Meanwhile, Rylance, who’s still probably best known for his brilliant work on stage, is the film’s real breakout discovery. With his musical Northern English accent and bemused, ironic demeanor, he turns a story that could feel as musty as a yellowed stack of old newspapers snap to exuberant life.”

Ann HornadayWashington Post
“‘Bridge of Spies’ expands from being a smart, engrossing procedural to a carefully observed character study of Donovan, a particularly intriguing, heretofore overlooked American figure. Thanks to his own reflexive values, Spielberg can’t help but make the kind of inspiring, classically constructed drama that we keep being told Hollywood doesn’t produce anymore.”

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How do you think “Bridge of Spies” will fare at the Oscars? 

Make your Oscar predictions and you could earn a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Oscar nominations).

Last year, our Top 24 Users led the way with an accuracy rate of 76.67% when it came to predicting the Oscar nominations. Next up were Gold Derby’s Editors with 74.44%, followed by the Experts with 71.11% and all Users with 68.09%. (Click on any of these groups to see what they got right and wrong last year.)

Which group will be victorious this year? Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Oscar nominations last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar.

As some of our Users turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, it’s important that you give us your predictions. Your picks influence our Users racetrack odds, which also factor into our official combined odds.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Ev/REX

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