Land of the Free and home of Tom Hanks

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

BRIDGE OF SPIES Di­rected by Steven Spiel­berg. Star­ring Tom Hanks, Mark Ry­lance, Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Eve Hew­son, Peter McRob­bie, Billy Mag­nussen, Austin Stow­ell, Domenick Lom­bar­dozzi. 12A, gen release, 141 min This is not the first film in which Tom Hanks has stood in for The Good Amer­ica, but it may fea­ture his most com­pre­hen­sive at­tack yet on that de­mand­ing role. In Steven Spiel­berg’s ir­re­sistible film – close to the best he has made this cen­tury – the ge­nial ac­tor plays James Dono­van, the lawyer hired to de­fend Rus­sian spy Ru­dolph Abel at the height of the Cold War. “Ev­ery­one will hate me, but at least I’ll lose,” he wryly re­marks. When the CIA tries to get him to be­tray at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege, he calmly ex­plains that it is such prin­ci­ples that sep­a­rate Amer­ica from the bar­bar­ians. He be­lieves that Abel (played with del­i­cate grace by Mark Ry­lance) is as much a pa­triot as the US cold war­riors be­hind the Iron Cur­tain.

That equiv­a­lency be­comes stark when Gary Pow­ers, a US pi­lot, is shot down in his sur­veil­lance air­craft over Soviet air space. Dono­van is called in to ar­range a swap be­tween the two pris­on­ers. With typ­i­cal de­cency, he de­fies in­struc­tions to in­clude a re­cently de­tained Amer­i­can stu­dent in the deal.

Spiel­berg will al­ways be Spiel­berg. The film ends with sen­ti­men­tal swellings from Thomas New­man’s score as the hero con­tem­plates the rich­ness of Amer­i­can life from a train

The Good Amer­ica: Hanks as lawyer James Dono­van in Bridge of Spies

car­riage. Some of the vis­ual flour­ishes are a lit­tle on-thenose: kids recit­ing the pledge of al­le­giance; shots of dis­carded flash­bulbs as Dono­van fights his way out of court. But the per­for­mances are nu­anced through­out and the recre­ations of post-war Brook­lyn and Berlin in the early days of the Wall are lav­ish to the point of in­de­cency.

This is, of course, the era of Spiel­berg’s ado­les­cence. He is per­mit­ted a de­gree of in­dul­gence. There’s noth­ing here we can’t en­thu­si­as­ti­cally for­give.

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