Bridge of Spies - Another great piece of work from the master that is Steven Spielberg.
Bridge of Spies is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan and Alan Alda. It tells the story of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer charged with defending Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a man accused of being a Soviet spy. Once an American soldier is captured by the Soviet Union, Donovan must travel to East Berlin to negotiate a prisoner exchange, and must make sure not to be captured and arrested as a prisoner of war himself.
With a story written by Joel and Ethan Coen, set during the Cold War, with Tom Hanks in the lead role and Steven Spielberg attached as director, it is fair to say that Bridge of Spies did not have much work to do in order to entice me into the cinema. Bridge of Spies is an intelligent and tense thriller with fantastic performances from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance.
The acting here is truly compelling and utterly flawless, as Tom Hanks does what he does best; he effortlessly portrays James B. Donovan as a man who is driven to always do the right thing. Mark Rylance plays Abel with a nonchalant charm; his response to Donovan repeatedly asking if he is worried is priceless. The chemistry between Hanks and Rylance crackles during every scene that they share, but I would have loved to have seen more of Rylance and Abel. Ultimately, this isn't a story about the relationship between Donovan and Abel.
Bridge of Spies is a story about fear and suspicion during wartime but, more importantly, it is about not letting fear sway you from doing the right thing. Donovan and his family are subjected to hate crime and mistrust but Donovan will not be moved; he knows how to act in accordance with the law and he wants Abel to be given a fair trial. It almost makes Donovan sound too good to be true but, during a scene in an under lit and private bar, he manages to explain to a CIA operative, in one of three fantastic monologues, why he feels the way he feels and you instantly understand and relate to him. The Coen brothers deliver an intelligent and witty script that engages you to the characters without patronising the audience.
Where Bridge of Spies falters, for me, is when Donovan is hired by the US government to arrange the prisoner swap between them and the Soviet Union in East Berlin. There are two or three awkward attempts at comedy that didn't sit well with me, and I felt that the negotiations of the prisoner exchange were reached far too easily, which did not allow the tension and drama of the situation to grow. However, the cinematography of East Berlin is gorgeous, with the snow fall giving the streets and buildings an added shine and charm. And the exchange in the early hours of the morning on the Gliennicke Bridge was fantastic, with the darkness, headlights and riflemen all adding the right amount of tension that the scene needed.
Will Bridge of Spies be remembered among Spielberg's best work? I would have to say no, but it is still a must see. Steven Spielberg gives us a beautiful looking thriller, Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance deliver sublime performances and the script they have to work from is sharp and witty. A cameo from one of my favourite actors, Alan Alda, also sweetened the pot for me. Go and watch it.