The second Steven Spielberg‘s Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies” is shown on screen, we see a mysterious old man staring at himself in the mirror while applying paint to a drawing of himself. A moment later, the phone rings. As if he had been waiting for the call, he gets up and picks up the call. He listens and ends it without uttering a word.
What a way to carve a mysterious man by opening the film with a long and wordless sequence like this. However, he is later revealed to be an alleged Russian spy named Rudolf Abel (played by Mark Rylance).
“Bridge of Spies” is not about Abel though. It is about Jim Donovan (played by Tom Hanks), a Brooklyn insurance lawyer who agrees to represent Abel who was caught in the US as a Soviet spy. He later finds himself thrust into the centre of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the highly important yet dangerous task to negotiate for the swap of Abel with captured American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers (played by Austin Stowell).
And get this: “Bridge of Spies” is based on a true story. So almost everything about this movie is real and we must say, it is yet another incredibly well-directed movie by Spielberg.
Now, let’s not focus on Hanks first. We need to talk about Rylance, who did a remarkable job at portraying his role as Abel
In this film, we first saw him as a painter. He seemed harmless, but boy, were we wrong about him. Abel is later captured by the government and accused for the crime of espionage against the US on behalf of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Even though Rylance plays only a supporting character, he stole the show with his unwaveringly assertive yet non-emotive performance. Most of his scenes with Hanks proved to be the most interesting parts of the film, but unfortunately there aren’t a lot of scenes of their intellectual conversations.
And there’s Hanks’ Donovan, who is by far the only character who decides to be warm and generous to Abel.
As we’ve previously mentioned, this is Hanks’ 4th time collaborating with Spielberg after 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan”, 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can”, and 2004’s “The Terminal”. Their latest collaboration is flawless because both Spielberg and Hanks knocked our socks off with their directing style and acting respectively.
Hanks once again stole our hearts with his incredibly likeable character as Donovan. He balances his role between a noble defence lawyer who doesn’t surrender, an admirable, supportive family man, and a caring husband to his wife Mary (played by Amy Ryan).
Some of you might not enjoy this film as much as we do because there aren’t a lot of epic action scenes. What they did show is a dynamic sequence where Francis Gary Powers falls into enemy hands after his plane is shot down by the Soviets.
This is the same scenario that Donovan envisioned while trying to defend a captured man like Abel. Before Powers is captured, he argues that Abel shouldn’t be sentenced to death as it would have been a politically bad move. He explains that imprisoning him would be a better idea because the government would want any captured American to be treated well.
As a result, someone with no political status like Donovan is requested by CIA to mediate the negotiations with the Soviets. Of course, Donovan is not superior as he suffers from a persistent cold, making him far less perfect than any extraordinary men that are typically shown in the spy thrillers.
All in all, “Bridge of Spies” is a riveting Cold War thriller, with a lawyer like Donovan putting America in a positive light and a spy like Abel showing the world that he’s just a soldier doing his job.
While it’s not Spielberg’s best film, we dare to say that this is one of the best films of the year.
Written by Ethan and Joel Coen, “Bridge of Spies” is based on an original script by Matt Charman. It comes 17 years after Spielberg won a directing Oscar for “Saving Private Ryan”.