It has been 11 years since the last Spielberg/ Hanks collaboration The Terminal (2004) so to hear that they had reunited for Bridge of Spies was something that, in what to date has been a fairly mediocre year of cinema, had me very excited.
Bridge of Spies sees Hanks, as lawyer James Donavan, plucked form his day to day insurance cases to defend the alleged Russian spy Rudolf Abel played wonderfully by Mark Rylance. Already considered guilty by many Abel is to be given a ‘fair trial’ and Donavan is caught in the crossfire of patriotism and doing what is right.
As the court case progresses we see a strong personal relationship build between the two and a trust that would have been a rarity in the Cold War period. While the relationship builds and the court case begins we see the parallel tale of a young American spy pilot take his training only to be subsequently captured by the Russians. Impressed by the fairness of Donovan the Russians reach out to him in order to make a spy for spy trade.
Cold war politics has never been so compelling. This is not the action packed spy world of Bond but rather the world of diplomacy and negotiation. This obviously involves lots of conversations in differing coms with very sparse ‘action’. However the film does not suffer for it and Hanks excels as the ‘everyday’ lawyer caught up in a situation much bigger than he could imagine.
We feel the conflict he and his family suffer from as he attempts to work through the moral maze of patriotism against doing the right thing. What is the right thing to do? What is the American thing to do? What are the values that an American should hold and how should they be acted out? Although set in the Cold War there is a very current and timely relevance to the film and the questions it poses.
Although based on true events during that period it is clear that artistic licence has been taken and Spielberg is one of the greatest at pulling an audience’s heart strings. The familiar sweeping strings at emotive moments giving the audience little chance of resisting the emotional pull.
Bridge of Spies is a solid spy drama with great performances from Hanks and Rylance, classic Spielbergian direction and great writing from the Coen brothers it is as close to a cinematic dream team as you could hope for.
Bridge of Spies is on general release from Thursday 26th Nov 2015.
Thank to MovieHouse for advance screening access.