Spielberg spins dry Cold War discussions into cinematic gold
There are not many directors as consistent as Steven Spielberg. Out of 29 films he’s had only a handful of duds. As many filmmakers age they lose their bite, start making stodgy old man flicks without the fire and fury that burned through their earlier work. But Spielberg instinctively knows the best way to turn the words into pictures, and he’s never lost that.
Based on a true story and set in the late 1950s, with the Cold War at its meanest chill, //Bridge Of Spies// has Tom Hanks doing what part of us always wants him to do, play America’s greatest guy. He’s James Donovan, a lawyer given the impossible job of defending a Soviet spy (//Angels And Insects// star Mark Rylance). A guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion, but Donovan fights his case and successfully argues that the prisoner should be locked up instead of executed in case he’s ever needed for a trade with Russia. Shortly after, an American pilot is captured during a spying mission over Russia and a trade is mooted. As cruel reward for his troubles Donovan is sent off to Berlin to negotiate the switch.
There are a lot of old white guys talking in rooms here. They discuss the sort of politically heavy issues – East Germany trying to establish itself as a world power; complex American foreign policy – that can really weigh a film down, yet it glides, the face-offs turned into quippy games (the Coen brothers co-wrote the script and their smooth humour shows). Without ever slipping on the web of politics he’s crossing, Spielberg pushes the film swiftly along on light feet. He’s taken a forgotten moment in history and spun it into a thoughtful, surprisingly amusing, thriller.
Stars: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan
Director: Stephen Spielberg