Bridge of Spies
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Bridge of Spies

Deliberately not reinventing the wheel, Spielberg and esteemed company have delivered an absorbing, feel good historical drama.

A dandy Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, a Brooklyn lawyer tapped by the government to represent a Soviet spy nabbed here at the height of the Cold War. It’s not long before Donovan finds himself a key player in one of the trickiest international prisoner swaps in modern history.

Clearly aiming for a movie that is interesting rather than challenging, it could be said that this spy story is a myth maker, unearthing and saluting a lesser known but deserving American hero. Impatient kids, hungry for fast cuts and enhanced super heroes will, undoubtedly grown antsy during the film’s lengthy running time. But screenwriters Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen, along with Spielberg, have chosen a more 1950’s appropriate tone, channeling the era’s surfacey version of simplicity.

Stripped of visual and plot gimmicks, we are reminded here of what a great storyteller Spielberg is at heart. He seems to relish every grey set, each and every actor, allowing them all to add flavor to the scripted proceedings. And as that script proceeds, almost laterally, with no convenient flashbacks or explanatory voice overs, we get the story as it unfurls, wrapping us up in it as would a well written spy novel.

But this, we are told, is real. Or at least pretty much so. It’s great to pay respect to such an accomplished historical figure, but it’s also cool to meet some of the guys who weren’t so squeaky clean. And Mark Rylance, as the captured Soviet, makes Rudolf Abel as fascinating a character as any in the genre. It sure would be fun, in a very different kind of way, to have him play that guy in a movie all on his own.

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