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THE AS­SAS­SIN

The plea­sure in this quiet epic seems al­most hid­den at first, and its un­fold­ing fills the viewer with awe at di­rec­tor Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s sub­tlety and dar­ing. The ex­pe­ri­ence is like walk­ing down a gallery of mag­nif­i­cent paint­ings and sud­denly be­com­ing aware that some­thing is mov­ing in each of them. The pace can ap­pear glacially slow, but things are con­stantly hap­pen­ing. Hou wraps ac­tion in still­ness and in­fuses still­ness with move­ment. Can­dles flicker in a still room. Steam drifts off a cup of tea. As for the story, set in the ninth-cen­tury Tang Dy­nasty, it bor­ders on the un­de­ci­pher­able. A young woman named Nie Yin­ni­ang (Qi Shu) has been groomed by a mys­te­ri­ous nun since child­hood to be an as­sas­sin. She is sent to her home prov­ince of Weibo to kill the gov­er­nor, to whom she was be­trothed as a child. There are iso­lated bursts of ac­tion, but the drama is in the moral­ity and aes­thet­ics of the mo­ment, not the hiss of the blade. Not rated. 107 min­utes. In Man­darin with sub­ti­tles. The Screen. (Jonathan Richards)

BRIDGE OF SPIES

Steven Spiel­berg res­ur­rects the fas­ci­nat­ing tale of the Cold War prisoner ex­change of Soviet spy Ru­dolf Abel and Fran­cis Gary Pow­ers, the U-2 pi­lot shot down over the Soviet Union. The story cen­ters on James B. Dono­van (Tom Hanks), a Brook­lyn in­sur­ance lawyer and for­mer Nurem­berg pros­e­cu­tor who is drafted to rep­re­sent Abel and up­hold the im­age of the Amer­i­can jus­tice sys­tem. As he works with Abel (Mark Ry­lance), a bond of ad­mi­ra­tion forms be­tween the two. The first half of the movie hums along nicely, de­spite an oc­ca­sional Spiel­ber­gian weak­ness for movie cliché. The sec­ond half, which sets Dono­van to work ar­rang­ing the swap, has too many threads to fol­low and loses fo­cus. Both Hanks and Ry­lance are ter­rific. The movie reaches a pow­er­ful dra­matic cli­max with the ex­change on a West Berlin bridge and then sput­ters on a lit­tle fur­ther, reach­ing for a feel-good end­ing. Rated PG-13.

141 min­utes. Vi­o­let Crown. (Jonathan Richards)

BROOK­LYN

In 1950s County Wex­ford, Ire­land, the for­ward­think­ing Rose (Fiona Glas­cott) has ar­ranged for her younger sis­ter Eilis (Saoirse Ro­nan) to go to Brook­lyn out of clear-eyed ne­ces­sity — Eilis can’t find a de­cent job, and there are few other prospects for her in Ire­land. In New York, Eilis set­tles into a clois­tered new life, liv­ing in a board­ing­house teem­ing with other, brasher young Ir­ish women. She’s in­tro­verted and

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