WRITTEN BY: Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
DIRECTED BY: Steven Spielberg
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Austin Stowell
RATING: 4 stars
Set in the early years of the Cold War, Bridge of Spies is inspired by the true story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer hired by the US government to represent alleged Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in court. Spurred on by his passion for human rights, Donovan manages to save Abel from the death penalty. His efforts come in handy when an American pilot (Austin Stowell) is captured in Russia and the US government enlists Donovan's help to arrange an exchange of the prisoners in East Germany as the Berlin Wall is erected. Donovan also uses the opportunity to seek the release of a captured college student on the wrong side of the wall.
In the past year, we have had action spy thrillers like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and comedies like Spy and Kingsman: The Secret Service. A few months ago, we got hilarious Cold War espionage film The Man From UNCLE. Bridge of Spies again focusses on the Cold War, but this time, it is a far more serious drama and provides yet another perspective on the genre. Bridge of Spies may be light on laughs, but when they do come, they provide some vital ease in an otherwise tense experience. The film is more than two hours long, but the script is clever. In some ways, it is almost three mini-stories in one and each is equally compelling. Hanks is obviously the big name and gives a solid performance, but it is Rylance who steals every scene he is in with his enigmatic character. Director Steven Spielberg tries at times to push the point a little too far, apparently assuming the audience is too dumb to pick up on symbolism and juxtaposition. Nonetheless, Donovan's tale is worthy of being portrayed on screen and Bridge of Spies is utterly enthralling.