Bridge Of Spies Review

Bridge Of Spies

Spy films are so hot right now, so it’s no great surprise that the latest cinematic collaboration featuring Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg is all about espionage.

What may come as a surprise is that Bridge Of Spies is less about secret agent men and more about an american insurance lawyer.

How’s that for a blockbusting tagline?

Hanks plays James Donovan, a successful insurance lawyer and all round big wig at his law firm. Somewhat out of the blue, Donovan is asked by his paymasters to represent a man accused of being a soviet spy.

Given his area of legal expertise, this is as much of a surprise to Donovan as anyone. But having been part of the prosecution for the Nuremberg trials before turning his talents to insurance law, Donovan’s bosses think he’d be well suited to the defence.

After all, this is america – land of the free and just, where everyone gets a fair trial.

And if you believe that, you probably believe the american dream is real too.

Donovan quickly realises as much when he discovers there’s no actual evidence against his client, Rudolf Abel, and the little evidence the prosecution do have was acquired through an illegal search of Abel’s apartment.

Still, who cares about warrants and due process as long as any alleged commies get sent to the chair so Uncle Sam and his lynch mob loving brethren can sleep easy at night?

Donovan has other ideas, but as he delves further into Abel’s case he is drawn into shadowy world of copy war espionage.

Based on real events, Bridge Of Spies takes a leaf out of the John le Carre school of spy films and comes up with something far more akin to the real world of espionage.

So if you’re after big guns, exotic girls and some ingenious gadgets, you’re going to be disappointed.

Even if you’re hoping for something akin to the slow-burning brilliance of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, this is not the celluloid you’re looking for.

Strangely, Bridge Of Spies isn’t really a film about spies at all; it’s about the negotiations that go on between countries behind closed doors to make sure everyone gets their own spies back.

But that’s not gonna make for a catchy title.

As you’d expect from any Spielberg production, Bridge Of Spies is well executed and expertly put together, with Hanks wheeling out his usual american everyman hero schtick.

Mark Rylance is the best of the supporting cast as the accused spy Abel, and his presence is sorely missed once the action moves to Berlin.

Maddeningly, his character also has the most interesting tale to tell, but instead Bridge Of Spies focuses on Donovan’s story.

And even though this is remarkable enough and would make for a great documentary, it doesn’t translate well to the big screen.

Secret agent men may be the hot ticket in cinema right now, but Bridge Of Spies is lukewarm at best.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

November 2015