Tom Hanks is insurance lawyer James B. Donovan in “Bridge of Spies,” a film which takes place in the late 1950s when the Cold War started to intensify. Donovan is a family person and is for most purposes, an every-man. This changes when U.S. agents arrest a suspected Soviet spy named Rudolf Abel (Rylance) and request Donovan to defend the operative in court to show that the country provides fair justice.
While a bit reluctant, Donovan decides to take up the case which subsequently presents challenges for his day to day life. For example he gets firsthand experience with the Red Scare and begins conversing with officials from agencies such as the CIA.
Even though spies is in the title, Director Steven Spielberg’s latest film is less of a thriller and more of an effective slow-burning political drama centering on negotiations. As the film goes on, there is a consistent, overwhelming theme of sticking to important rights even in the face of opposition.
“Bridge” also contains some turns as the movie goes on, featuring plot points which take place in Berlin just around the time in which the wall is built to divide the two sides. As usual, Spielberg is able to capture the real events through the camera very well and it adds intensity and suspense to the story as negotiations increase.
There are a few issues with the movie’s story, though. For example, the movie also includes the story of Francis Powers, played by Austin Stowell, who gets shot down over Russia. While the movie does show what Powers did, it didn’t really show who he was.
Another factor was a subplot which was introduced earlier in the film that appeared like it may lead to a romantic story point but isn’t mentioned again after the first act.
The film is benefited from an award caliber performance from Hanks, who perfectly provides what his character needs. Hanks’ natural charm blends together well with the character’s staunch support of his country’s rights and system. In one scene in particular, Hanks delivers a great line speaking about the importance of following the “rule book” and does so very effectively.
Also fantastic in the film was Rylance as the Russian spy Rudolf Abel. Rylance gives a rather reserved performance, portraying a man who realizes the situation he is in and for the most part accepts it. His subtle performance works well on screen, especially in scenes that he shares with Hanks.
An important factor which helps both actors, and the rest of the cast as well, is the script written by Matt Charman and the Coen Bros. The Coens’ touch is definitely felt as the film includes solid humor and the negotiations have a some wit.
One obviously expects a Spielberg film to be technically well made and “Bridge” is no exception. The cinematography is gorgeous, the whole picture is well shot. The opening scene, which is for the most part quiet, is a prime example of how good the camera work is. There’s even a thrilling scene of a plane crash which can get some people on the edge of their seats.
Overall, “Bridge of Spies” is a solid film and will likely earn some nominations come award season. There are some flaws but the strong performances and the well told story make it a very interesting experience. 4 out of 5.