Following successful collaborations on BAND OF BROTHERS (2001), CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002) and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998), Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks reunite for new film BRIDGE OF SPIES, an American historical drama-thriller film about the Cold War.
Based on the 1960 U-2 incident during the Cold War, BRIDGE OF SPIES tells the story of American lawyer James B. Donovan (Hanks) who is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in exchange the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers. The film is spilt into two parts. The first part is essentially a courtroom drama about a man who is given the unpopular task of providing a legal defense for an accused foreign spy. The second is a classic espionage thriller about the same man who is given the challenging task of negotiating a complex international prisoner exchange.
Studied, daring and visually stunning, BRIDGE OF SPIES certainly earns its place alongside JAWS (1975), JURASSIC PARK (1993) and SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993) as a Spielberg classic. The Cold War espionage thriller is deeply cinematic and Spielberg’s work is focused and deliberate, with breathtaking attention to detail. Janusz Kaminsky’s cinematography glows with an air of nostalgia, complementing Adam Stockhausen’s superb production design. Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay also boasts layers of texture with unexpected low-key humour, turning a secret prisoner exchange into a tense cat-and-mouse game between the CIA and the KGB.
Tom Hanks gives a solid performance as Jim Donovan, the insurance lawyer called into duty by his government to serve as Abel’s defense attorney. His boss (Alan Alda) just wants Donovan to make sure the judicial process runs appropriately but in true Spielberg protagonist style, Donovan isn’t a man who just does what is asked of him, he does more. Hanks plays the role well, delivering the perfect balance between ordinary and extraordinary without overplaying the heroism.
Hanks is supported by an equally great performance from Mark Rylance as Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. The British stage actor steals the show in his supporting role, balancing quiet conversation with deadpan humor to deliver a performance that works wonders on screen.
If you’re expecting plenty of action or big set-pieces, you’ll be disappointed as BRIDGE OF SPIES is a movie of dialogue which builds tension through conversation. There are also a few moments when the film feels a little repetitive but the pace quickly picks back up again in the second half.
In an age when spy thrillers tend to rely on action, sex and gadgets to propel the story forward, BRIDGE OF SPIES is a refreshing, riveting and compelling drama about a real-life spy drama with first-class performances from Hanks and Rylance.
BRIDGE OF SPIES is released in the UK on 26 November 2015.