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Bridge of Spies


Stars: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Sebastian Koch, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Jesse Plemons, Dakin Matthews, Scott Shepherd, Peter McRobbie, Mikhail Gorefoy, Burghart Klaussner, Will Rogers

Director: Steven Spielberg

This film of two halves boasts good, solid storytelling from a man who knows how. You could pretty much write the outline story yourself - give or take a subplot or two - from the halfway stage, so the appeal lies in the telling, the construction of the plot and in the finely-tuned performances from Hanks, Rylance, Koch and others.

The movie starts as a courtroom drama: it's 1957 and Rudolf Abel (Rylance), a Soviet spy, is nabbed by the CIA - though he manages to destroy a vital piece of information - and put on trial for espionage. An 'insurance lawyer', Jim B Donovan (Hanks), is handed the job of defending Abel, thus laying himself open to becoming one of the most hated men in America.

Thwarted at every turn by a biased judge (Matthews), Jim at least saves his client from execution by suggesting it might be prudent to keep him for a possible spy swap in the future. And when U2 pilot Gary Powers (Stowell) is shot down over Russia and captured, the possibility becomes reality: Donovan is once again pitched into the thick of things, and finds himself on his way to East Berlin.

This could be fairly dry stuff but, if nothing else, Spielberg is a man who knows how to keep the ball rolling, and so he does, with the help of humorous asides, and such little incidental scenes as Donovan having his overcoat stolen by East German youths. And, in spite of the film's likely outcome, suspense is well maintained right up to the end.

The final scene, when Donovan's three children realise what he's really been up to on his 'fishing trip', is quite a gem.

David Quinlan

USA 2015. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Technicolor.
141 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 23 Nov 2015