Set during the height of the Cold War, this espionage drama recounts the rather spectacular true story of American insurance lawyer James Donovan (Hanks), who’s first tasked with defending a Russian spy (Rylance) caught by the CIA, then with negotiating a captive exchange between the United States, the Soviet Union and the GDR. Carrying with it the fortes and trappings of a Spielberg movie, the 140-minute prestige picture is fluently told and handsomely crafted, yet can’t quite shake the tired taste of something trying too hard to please everybody. Emotionally approachable to a fault, we’re made to feel the hero’s dejection and triumph via broadly staged scenes accompanied by a pretty literal Thomas Newman score.
But such absence of a deeper, subtler resonance aside, the master of crowd-pleasers proves he still knows how to get your blood pumping, as exemplified by an abundance of iconic shots and expertly orchestrated sequences like the smooth opening chase number. Hanks is also strong playing a simple man with great convictions, his impassioned presence carefully matched by Rylance’s unreadable equanimity. Shot evenly in New York and Berlin, Bridge of Spies is well worth watching for the history alone – just don’t go in expecting something as visceral as Schindler's List.
Bridge of Spies | Directed by Steven Spielberg (USA 2015) with Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance. Starts November 26