With names thrown about that include Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg expectations are always going to be high before any details are even learned, but it’s for good reasons. Nevertheless, the plot is this; James B Donovan (Hanks) is the lawyer chosen to represent captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), once his job is done another shows its head. That particular job is negotiating the return of a pilot turned spy captured by the Soviets, an old-fashioned swap: one spy for another. This definitely isn’t going to be the easiest job in the world, or one that will make him particularly popular but he isn’t going to let that stop him.
The logical start of a conversation about this film would be to start with the man himself, Hanks but that’s not going to be my choice, first and foremost we have to talk about Mark Rylance. Rylance plays Abel the surprise delight of this film, he may not be a name that you immediately recognise but he’s appeared many times over the years on stage and screen alike, and after this film you’ll remember his name. Playing Abel, the most hated man in America, and yet he’s difficult to dislike, with ultimate composure, quick wit and one of the most stalwart characters yet. The more surprising factor is the amount of humour in this film, it may be marketed as a cold-war espionage drama, but this is a sparkling study of human determination and spirit, as is often the case with Spielberg dramas. The only down side to that is that we don’t get much espionage action, having that slight edge would have added a whole new level to the film and made it unbeatable, but it doesn’t suffer without it.
Back to the big man, Tom Hanks is the legend who never really disappoints and he certainly doesn’t in Bridge of Spies, it is yet another performance where you back him within seconds of being introduced to him. The wonderful Amy Ryan playing his wife just gives you another reason to get behind him. His performance is little short of phenomenal, and practically the whole film is revolves around it with the exception of Rylance’s contribution; but there’s no doubt that without Hanks the quality of this film could be extremely different.
Of course the second biggest aspect is the style of the film, it is undeniable that Spielberg has style. This is a man that knows how to use a score to cut to the core of an audience, to reach their emotions and pull them to the surface. As well as being overtly adept at putting a film together to keep from long scenes of conversation dragging, and actually being almost exciting. It may not be the exact film I expected, thinking there would be much more detail to the story of espionage but it is no disadvantage.
This is two legends of the big screen collaborating (with many other people) to create one fantastic, touching and despite its slightly long running time of 140 minutes, thoroughly entertaining.