Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan
Director: Steven Spielberg
Running Time: 141 mins
Bridge Of Spies is an American film about the true story of James Donovan, an insurance lawyer who tasked with defending a Soviet spy in a US court of law, before becoming deeper involved in negotiations to exchange the spy for a captured US agent with the USSR.
At first glance, it may not seem as if Bridge Of Spies would stand out amongst the crowd of Cold War thrillers, but it’s actually a film that deserves a huge amount of credit for changing the formula of the genre, and telling an incredibly compelling but still reserved story, helped by a fantastic central performance by Tom Hanks.
The main thing about this film is that it’s not an action-packed and intensely fast-paced drama, but is instead an intelligent detailing of a series of negotiations and discussions that had huge significance in world history.
So although you may find the premise of this movie a bit boring, believe me, it presents the stakes and importance of the discussions so clearly that each and every word spoken feels so intense, and as such, it becomes massively compelling to watch from start to finish, and it’s two and a half hours that absolutely fly by.
The main bulk of the story is focussed on the whole negotiations for the exchange, but what is actually even more interesting than the more historically significant story is the main character, James Donovan.
He’s an insurance lawyer who’s thrown right in the deep end with having to defend an international criminal, and in that you really see that he’s not superman, but a relatable, normal man to whom I found it so easy to like and support along the way. However, it’s his outlook on the themes of justice and freedom that are most intriguing.
The film presents a fascinating dilemma with regards to this Soviet spy’s right to be genuinely fairly tried in court, and Donovan continually goes to the ends of the Earth to uphold this, making him, ethically speaking, fantastic, despite the fact that he begins to face some of the adversity that the spy does.
In that, then, this is a very patriotic film, and one that keeps looking at what makes Americans American, at least on the surface. Beneath the clear patriotism, however, the film details the ideological conflict between the free-thinking USA and the more brutal Soviet bloc, both the USSR and East Germany, and as a result, you get yet another layer of a truly fascinating story, told in brilliant style.
Finally, I have to say something about Tom Hanks’ performance, which is just so good. He plays this likeable guy, and he manages to pull off the character’s mix of being such an ideologically and ethically sound person, as well as an everyman who still really wants to just get into his bed and relax, instead of travel to East Berlin to negotiate these deals. He does this by putting in a very assured and strong-willed performance, and it’s immediately easy to believe that he is Donovan, but he still puts in small details to make sure that you never lose sight of who the man still is.
Overall, I’ll give Bridge Of Spies an 8.3, because it’s a different take on the Cold War thriller, one more about the world-encompassing significance of negotiations, and is presented with a stunning central performance and one of the most compelling plots of any movie this year.