Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have worked together many times in the past. One of the more notable films the two collaborated on was Saving Private Ryan. At the time, and even today, Saving Private Ryan is one of the most gritty and realistic war films to hit the mainstream. Now the two are working together again on another war film, Bridge of Spies.
The new film is set in 1960 and takes place during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. It tells the true story of Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) and Brooklyn lawyer, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) as their lives are thrust together. Abel is caught and arrested in the US, while Donovan is tasked with being his lawyer in order to provide a fair trial.
Shortly after the trial, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down over the Soviet Union while flying an advanced U-2 spy plane. Thanks to Donovan’s excellent work during the Abel trial, the CIA asks him to help in a prisoner exchange featuring Powers and Abel. More complications arise and Donovan finds himself in Germany during the construction of the Berlin Wall.
As you can tell by the premise of the movie, tensions are high in all parts of the world during the events of the film. Throughout the trial, Donovan was one of the most hated men in America behind Abel himself. As a family man, the film shows not only what Donovan is going through, but also what his wife, Mary (Amy Ryan) and children are going through as well.
Bridge of Spies is almost a true return to form for Spielberg. He made some outstanding films in his early days, but with questionable movies such as Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and War of the Worlds, he hasn’t been as exceptional in recent years. While Bridge of Spies isn’t quite on par with Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List or Jurassic Park, it’s much better than what we’ve seen out of the famed director lately.
The biggest issue with Bridge of Spies is a lack of understanding. Donovan makes a lot of decisions throughout the film that put himself and his family in immediate danger. While his decisions are morally sound and the “right” thing to do, we don’t get a proper explanation of why he’s so keen on risking his family’s welfare.
As the film progresses, Donovan and Abel form a bond. You can see the relationship evolve over time and despite the fact that Abel is a Soviet spy, much of your emotional attachment during the film is aimed at him. With only a handful of lines throughout the 141 minute drama, Mark Rylance is able to deliver a performance that rivals headliner Tom Hanks. He is the heart and soul of this movie and the subtleties of his acting make you feel for the character.
At 141 minutes, there’s a lot to take in while you watch Bridge of Spies. Some audiences may wander off as there isn’t a great deal of action in the film. This is a drama, and tensions run high, but with the lack of understanding it can make some people question Donovan’s motives. While it’s not the best movie of the year, it is an entertaining film if you’re looking for a high-tension drama with Tom Hanks in the lead.
Bridge of Spies:[usr 3.75]
About Bridge of Spies
Synopsis: An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen
Stars: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda
Runtime: 141 Minutes