Steven Spielberg has taken a real-life story of spies and espionage of the 60’s and made a beautiful, thrilling and quite exquisite piece of film that is bound to be in the running for one of the prestigious Film awards come the award season.
Set in 60’s America, James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is just your normal insurance claims lawyer, The CIA have arrested Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) a suspected Russian Spy. In order for it to appear, he has a fair hearing in court they have to offer Abel a Lawyer who has no ties or vested interest in the American political system. Donovan is roped in to represent Abel.
You would think this classic cold war story would be biased towards the Americans, but the dazzling script is written so perfectly that you find yourself rooting for the Russian. Donovan is compelled to do the same as he becomes increasingly close to Abel. He even manages to convince the judge to withhold the death sentence as he foresees he can be used as an exchange if an American ever fell into the clutches of the Russians.
Scripted by the Coen Brothers, whose films have always been a bit of a hit or miss with me, it came as a truly wonderful surprise at how this story is fall of the kindness of humanity and one man’s mission not to be coerced into changing his own moral views because everyone around him has their own agendas. It’s obvious that it is due to the Coen Brothers the film is also full of light-hearted humour, which breaks up the tense and thrilling moments throughout. One instance that stands out is whenever Donovan would ask Abel a question such as ‘Are you worried’ Abel would reply with a deadpan face ‘Would It Help’. Such a simple line but the delivery by the stony-faced Rylance is just perfect. It’s almost as if he was made to play the part of this man who never says much at all.
That exchange opportunity comes in the form of American Spy plane pilot Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) as his plane is shot down. Donovan impressed with his negotiation skills in getting Abel just a prison sentence and is asked by the CIA to venture to Berlin to negotiate terms for the swap to bring home their man. Once in East Berlin, it comes to Donovan’s attention a young American student is also being held, basically for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s adamant in talks with the CIA that he will also be negotiating for his release to their dismay.
Cheekily, he throws this in as a last minute demand and what becomes a cat and mouse chase between the German’s and the Russians, Donovan never falters in his demands for the exchange. Finally winning the fight the exchange takes place in the very early hours of the morning on the Glienecke Bridge which is also known as The Bridge of Spies. There comes a moment on the Bridge when stalling takes place in delivering the student to checkpoint Charlie and Donovan refuses to let Abel cross until he has been delivered. The bond between prisoner and lawyer has become strong and you can feel the mutual respect between these men, especially when the CIA agent tells Abel to cross across Donovan’s wishes, but Abel says ‘I’ll Wait’
Tom Hanks just has this natural ability to make you fully embrace any character he plays, and he certainly has an eye for picking great films to work on. There is just no faltering in his performance as he brings to life the warm yet assured and moral stance of this amazing man.
A Bridge of Spies is joyously compelling, touching and uplifting! The cinematography is beautiful. It’s also touched with heart warming humour to break up the film from being too heavy. Hanks, is a pure joy to watch.
BRIDGE OF SPIES arrives in UK cinemas November 26th.