Tom Hanks is great in Bridge of Spies. For 141 minutes, he owns the screen as Cold War attorney James B. Donovan.
The script carefully crafted by Matt Charman and Ethan and Joel Coen places us in 1957, in the city, where CIA agents are chasing a painter played exquisitely by Mark Rylance. The crafty foreigner with the hint of a British accent, you see, is suspected as a Russian spy. A crafty one, too, we discover via the wise direction of Steven Spielberg.
Donovan, a big and smooth talker whose specialty is insurance, draws the short stick in his firm, and is ordered by a smarmy boss (played well by Alan Alda) to give Rudolf Abel the just representation he’s promised by all things American.
Hanks owns the world as Donovan, with a putty face ready to show his emotions when needed but also practiced in poker from those ticklish big-ticket insurance cases.
He’s smart and wise and committed to the cause.
Spielberg paints a vivid picture of those days, with Donovan’s kids immersed in school nuclear war talk and wife (Amy Ryan in a stern role) knowingly by his side even when kept in the dark, and agents and police and law operatives really not wedded to this caught spy getting exonerated at his trial.
That’s the year I was born, and the Cold War had not thawed by the time I was in school, so these scenes seemed real, indeed.
And scary, too, as Donovan gets pulled into East Germany to really deal with the spy games as he negotiates a swap for a pilot downed over Russia and a student captured by the newly erected wall.
Spielberg subtly allows the good guys and bad guys to shake out over time, both sides, with Hanks’ stolid but still emotional work at the heart of it all.
All involved work seamlessly to give us a soul-wrenching look into the days when world politics were simpler at face value but fraught with frightful scenarios nonetheless.
You couldn’t hear a popcorn bag rustle at the robust Friday matinée crowd in the Regal Cinemas theater in Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA. Two hours and 21 minutes seemed much shorter. Everybody exhaled at last at the end.
What’s your favorite Tom Hanks movie, and why? What’s your favorite Steven Spielberg movie, and shy? Are you a fan of spy politics movies, and why?