<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Sebastian Koch, Dakin Matthews, Domenick Lombardozzi
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes
More of a hostage negotiations drama than a spy thriller, Bridge of Spies is intricate and deftly woven piece of entertainment that is based on… yes, a true story, proving that real life is far more interesting than fiction.
Bridge of Spies starts off slowly and meticulously during the time of the Cold War. Communist spies are everywhere and one such ‘traitor’ is in the midst of the Americans. Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) has a North England accent and paints portraits and landscapes but is also a Russian spy. But he gets caught. His reaction to being busted is priceless and sets the tone for this richly written and superbly crafted film that has several layers and some sub-plots that all tie nicely together in the end.
James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is a lawyer who is selected to represent Abel, since in America everyone gets a ‘fair trial’. Well it’s as fair as the judge wants it to be considering Abel is a spy and a threat to American values and life, what with the dreaded H-bomb and its effects being taught to little children to show them the horrors that may befall them in the event of an escalation of the Cold War.
Donovan is an idealist and immediately takes a liking to Abel, whose deadpan expressions and dry wit are very difficult to take a dislike to. Tom Hanks is one of the sincerest actors in the industry and his performance here is brilliant. He must face the ire of his fellow men and family for defending a communist but his commitment to the rulebook of the USA (the Constitution) is steadfast and ultimately pays off.
America secretly sends in spy planes to photograph the USSR and as you can imagine they end up getting a prisoner of war for themselves. And so an exchange must be organised and only Donovan can steer the muggy waters of deception, politics and scheming to save both his client and American prisoners in both the USSR and East Berlin.
Bridge of Spies is utterly engaging with its crisp and intelligent dialogue, fine performances and layers of plot that you see coming but are totally blown away by the excellent execution. Looks like Spielberg has reclaimed his magic and we can’t be more pleased. There are plenty of moments and scenes in the film that will make you smile, laugh, feel a chill and be utterly charmed by.