REVIEW: Classy, compelling and a real lesson in history - Bridge of Spies is a gripping tale brilliantly told
09:40 30 November 2015
Classy, gripping and potentially Oscar winning Bridge of Spies (now showing at the Light Cinema in Wisbech) is not only an entertaining watch, it is also a history lesson.
Set against the back drop of the height of the Cold War in 1957 the film relates the story of two spies and the man who sets about repatriating them to their respective countries.
As the opening credits point out it is based on true events, and the story is told in such meticulous detail it is easy to believe it is a close telling of the tale. And with Steven Spielberg at the helm and Tom Hanks in the lead role, you just know its going to be a good watch.
The opening sequence starts with Russian spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) receiving a phone call that has him stepping out to pick up some secretive information, carefully housed in a fake dollar coin.
As he walks through the city, accompanied only by the noises you would expect to find on the busy streets of New York, we realise he is being closely watched by ‘the men in black’ - the FBI and CIA.
Shortly arriving back at his hotel room he is arrested for his covert activities. He cleverly manages to destroy the damning evidence of the secret information just collected, but there are lots of other tell tale signs pointing to his treasonable activities. The American authorities are convinced he is a spy, but want him to have a fair trial. Cue Tom Hanks as lawyer Jim Donovan appointed to defend him, despite his background being in insurance law not criminal counsel.
Abel and Donovan strike up a genuine friendship despite the Russian’s anti American activities, with Donovan respecting the honourable way Abel conducts himself through the court episode.
Found guilty of espionage Abel is facing a death sentence but forward thinking Donovan pleads for clemency pointing out there may come a time when an American spy is captured leading to the need for an exchange of prisoners.
Fast forward two years and an American spy plane is shot down on a sortie deep over Russia, the pilot Francis Gary Powers is captured. Donovan finds himself shipped off to Berlin - just as the wall is going up - to negotiate the hostage swap in the depths of winter.
The whole thing is beautifully shot, there is no swearing, no shouting, and very little violence. But for all that the film is compelling viewing, the viewer like Donovan himself is never sure who is who on either side. He appears to be in constant jeopardy and you are never quite know how the thing is going to end.
Tom Hanks is brilliant as Donovan but it is Rylance as the softly spoken, enigmatic Russian who steals the show.
A truly edge of the seat kind of film, which leaves you cheering for both Donovan and Abel as the game of cat and mouse between the Russian KGB and the American CIA plays out around them.
You come away with a good feeling, and a great deal more knowledge of the Cold War and how it was fought than you had when you went in.
This is sure to see nominations when it comes to the awards season - and if there is justice either or both Hanks and Rylance will find themselves in the running for a gong or two.