OUTSTANDING: Tom Hanks in a scene from Bridge of Spies. Photo: Jaap Buitendijk
OUTSTANDING: Tom Hanks in a scene from Bridge of Spies. Photo: Jaap Buitendijk Jaap Buitendijk

Masters of the game

BRIDGE of Spies marks the fourth time Tom Hanks has teamed up with director Steven Spielberg (not including the many projects they've produced together).

You can tell these two professionals have worked together before, with the result being a smooth, (mostly) flawless film.

Bridge of Spies tells the story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), a Brooklyn insurance lawyer who finds himself thrust into the centre of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible task to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.

It's 1957 and the US and Russia are in the middle of a war. It wasn't a way with gunfire and battles like Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, but rather one of information and espionage. Both sides had spies trying to infiltrate the other to gather important information.

Rudolf Abel (played by somewhat unknown British actor Mark Rylance) is one of these spies, a British-born Russian spy who is captured by the Americans, and his country instantly denies any connection with Abel.

The reason the US Government has put an insurance lawyer on the case is they want to show the world that they've given the suspected spy Rudolf Abel a "just and fair" trial.

But Donovan is a good lawyer, and while he's dedicated to his country, he also believes in the law - and commits to giving Abel true representation in his trial, even though he knows those around him will (sometimes literally) close every door in his face.

Based on a documented true story by James Donovan himself. His book Strangers on a Bridge is what writers Joel and Ethan Coen (along with Matt Charman) based the film on.

I was surprised during the closing credits to see the Coen brothers' name on the screenplay. This doesn't feel like one of their films at all - it's possible they came in on a late draft to polish the screenplay.

There are shades of light and dark in this gritty film, the first half playing out like a courtroom drama, the final half being basically a spy thriller.

Hanks plays Donovan with a witty sense of humour throughout the film, which brings a welcome sense of relief in all the seriousness surrounding him. Bridge of Spies is a suspenseful film with two masters at the helm, and something would be amiss if the result of these two geniuses working together was anything less than excellent.

Bridge of Spies is just that - an excellent film. Outstanding in every aspect.

RATING: 9/10

Gympie Times

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