Bridge of Spies sees Tom Hanks take a star turn as American insurance lawyer James Donovan. When he is recruited by the CIA to negotiate the release of captured American U–2 pilot Rudolf Abel (played by Mark Rylance), Donovan finds himself thrust right into the heart of the Cold War. The film is based on James Donovan's real life experiences, described by Spielberg as ‘one of the most astonishing stories about the Cold War I’d ever heard.’
The film boasts a standout performance from Hanks, who handles the role of James Donovan with finesse, charm and sensitivity, driving the negotiations between nations, as he barters Abel for two American prisoners. Through Donovan, we explore the struggles and tribulations of a man determined to stand up for what is right, regardless of who he alienates.
If Bridge of Spies sounds like a typical American spy drama though (Guy Richie's upcoming drama The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and new Bond film Spectre suggesting a recent penchant for Cold War drama and hard-hitting action) think again. Matt Charman’s script – co-written with the Coen brothers – is nuanced and complex. Small details are brought into play, characters are enigmatic but wholly believable, and motifs repeated to great effect.
The film boasts a fair bit of humour too, with the Coens' signature absurdity peppering the story at the most unlikely moments. This, coupled with Spielberg's insightful eye, makes for a riveting cinematic experience from start to finish. A notable mention should also go to Hanks’ coat: a piece of clothing which almost steals the show completely.
Hanks is supported by a strong cast: with Mark Rylance giving a disarmingly sweet performance as the Russian spy and object of negotiations, and Sebastian Koch is a true maverick as East German lawyer Wolfgang Vogel. Alan Alda is charming as Thomas Watters, and – though her character might have benefited from further development – Amy Ryan makes for an effective counterpart to Hanks as Donovan's wife.
There are a few flaws, most notably at the end: Spielberg seemingly cannot resist an E.T. style finale, and, as Hanks returns home, the film lapses into melodrama – heartfelt looks, soaring music and small, adoring children abound. A clever parallel between children jumping walls in New York and the atrocities Donovan has witnessed at the Berlin Wall goes some – though not all – the way to countering the damage done by the heavy hand of Hollywood.
Nonetheless, Bridge of Spies is a knockout film, and one which will surely garner Hanks an Oscar nomination.
|Bridge of Spies film review
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06 Nov 15 – 01 Jan 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
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