Bridge Of Spies


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Bridge Of Spies
"What seems dry and dusty on the page is far from it on the screen" | Photo: Touchstone Pictures

Is retro cool? Are movies reaching back to a golden somewhere before CGI and super powers dominated creative thinking? It seems so.

Steven Spielberg has been mocked, rocked and blocked by critics who say he's too soft and traditional to keep up with the new energy emanating from techno savants and radical innovators who find Woody Allen wooden.

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Take a breath. Switch off Twitter and kick Facebook down the hall. If you want to see old fashioned filmmaking at its best look no further. This is Spielberg, the master storyteller, working with a script, doctored by the Coen brothers, and performances from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance that are a joy to watch.

Without attempting to compare the two, it is interesting to note that the leading players in JFK and Bridge Of Spies are lawyers. James Donovan (Hanks) specialises in insurance claims and has a reputation for being a stickler for detail.

After the spy Rudolf Abel (Rylance) is arrested in New York at the height of the Cold War there is only one thing to do - strap the traitor to the chair and pull the switch. It's what the country wants and expects. However, for political reasons, America must be seen to do the right thing - this is before Guantanamo Bay when due process was shredded in favour of imprisonment without trial - and so an advocate with no experience of international law is appointed to defend Abel.

His role is to go through the motions, make them look legit, as prison handymen check out the electrics. True to based-on-fact movie heroes Donovan refuses to rubber stamp an execution without doing his duty towards his client.

Meanwhile, a young American pilot is shot down over Russia in his high altitude surveillance plane and the question of a swap is mooted. Donovan has to battle with government bureaucracy to keep faith with the project and ensure that an exchange in Berlin actually happens.

What seems dry and dusty on the page is far from it on the screen. The evocation of the period is beautifully done and the tension, as relayed by the actors, is sticky pants guaranteed.

Reviewed on: 25 Nov 2015
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An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to defend a Russian spy
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Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Domenick Lombardozzi, Austin Stowell, Noah Schnapp

Year: 2015

Runtime: 141 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy