Cold war, warm heart; Hanks& Spielberg deliver the goods.
BRIDGE OF SPIES 12A, 141mins. Opens Friday THE STARS Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Scott Shepherd, Amy Ryan, Sebastian Koch, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Mikhail Gorevoy, Will Rogers THE STORY During the Cold War, American lawyer James B. Donovan (Hanks) must defend a Soviet spy in court, then help exchange him for US pilot Francis Gary Powers (Stowell). THE VERDICT Steven Spielberg is at his classy and stylish best in this impressively staged Cold War drama, which is an old-fashioned celebration of fair-minded American integrity and features a wonderfully generous and warmhearted performance by Tom Hanks. His role as honest lawyer James B. Donovan is the sort of part James Stewart would have played in years gone by, but while the film is old-fashioned at its core, there are still plenty of dramatic thrills.
It is based on a true story, which give Bridge of Spies a real edge, though as always Spielberg can be relied on to craft an elegant and beautiful production.
Hanks is splendid as Brooklyn insurance lawyer Donovan, who is surprised to be asked to arrange the first East-West spy exchange. He had represented the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (a fine performance by Rylance) after his arrest in 1957, which is why he's chosen to facilitate the transfer. Donovan soon finds himself honing his negotiating skills in East Berlin in 1962.
When a US U-2 spy plane is shot down, the CIA has to move quickly to make sure the Abel/Powers swap is arranged before Powers is forced to reveal military secrets.
Donovan insists that American student Frederic Pryor (Rogers), who had been arrested by the Stasi on suspicion of spying, is also freed in the arrangement, which frustrates his CIA handler.
The unlikely friendship between Donovan and Abel runs through the core of the film, and Spielberg also does a great job in recreating 1960s East Berlin. It builds towards a nerve-racking climax as the exchange takes place.
4 A really classy Cold War drama
CLASSY Tom Hanks and Amy Ryan