Bridge of Spies review: ‘Rylance is mesmerising, Hanks is... Hanks’

09:00 28 November 2015

Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance and Billy Magnusson in Bridge of Spie. Picture: Jaap Buitendijk/DreamWorks

Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance and Billy Magnusson in Bridge of Spie. Picture: Jaap Buitendijk/DreamWorks

©DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.

Another safe offering from Stephen Spielberg is saved by the performances of its two leading stars, says Michael Joyce.

This decade Spielberg has teased us with glimpses and promises of a parallel career in which he would’ve made films like Interstellar, Robopocaylpse, and Ready Player One. These days, though, Based On Real Events trumps Based on a Best Selling Novel with Spielberg so instead he’s chosen respectable, sensible and, dare I say, dull projects like War Horse, Lincoln, and now this. He’s already got three; how many more Oscars does he need?

Bridge of Spies is set against the backdrop of late ‘50s Cold War paranoia and American culture trying to assimilate the concept of nuclear annihilation into its psyche. It’s a fascinating milieu but after a perky opening in which Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Rylance) is arrested by the Feds, your heart sinks when the film looks set to be a court room drama with Hanks going it alone to defend the American way.

Flying in to save the day is Gary Powers (Stowell.) His U2 spy plane gets shot down over the USSR and he falls into the hands of Soviets and the last half of the film becomes a pleasantly involving tale of Cold War espionage set on either side of the Berlin Wall, with Hanks trying to negotiate a hostage exchange. It’s like a le Carre story with James Stewart replacing Smiley.

Insurance lawyer Donovan (Hanks) is initially reluctant to be Abel’s defence lawyer, knowing that it is going to cost him lots professionally and personally. His character’s reluctance may have been mirrored by Hanks at the prospect of playing opposite Rylance. Fifty years ago a version of the story was proposed with Alec Guinness in the role, and he wouldn’t have bettered Rylance’s work here. Abel, an inscrutable Soviet spy with a soft Scottish accent, is an energy-conserving showstopper of a role; so passive, so droll, he’s like a spent clown, and Rylance is mesmerising as him. In comparison Hanks is stuck playing his standard golly gosh role. Despite it all, Hanks holds his own. Never undervalue the ability to play decency convincingly, it’s very rare. Villainy and evil is easy, but honourable is tough.

Rating: 3/5 stars

For longer versions and reviews of The Good Dinosaur, Doctor Zhivago and the Blu-ray release of Robinson Crusoe on Mars, visit halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

14 minutes ago
Geography teacher Kato Harris wept as a jury cleared him of all charges

A Geography teacher has told of the “massive stress” of being accused of repeatedly raping a 14-year-old pupil in the classroom of his Camden school.

17:45
Nearly 4,000 pupils were excluded for reasons including racist abuse and sexual misconduct across Camden, Haringey and Barnet. Picture: PA

Racist abuse, sexual misconduct and drug and alcohol offences – these are some of the reasons why nearly 4,000 Camden, Haringey and Barnet pupils were excluded from schools last year.

17:37
Kato Harris, has been cleared of  three counts of rape

A geography teacher wept today after a jury took just 26 minutes to clear him of repeatedly raping a pupil in a classroom at a Camden school.

13:19
Omar Bartocci, 13,  has been found safe and well after going missing last Wednesday

A 13-year-old junior rugby player has been found “safe and well.” after going missing for five days.

17:06
Joel Hughes has taken 100 wickets for North Middlesex in the Premier Division. Pic: Paolo Minoli

North Middlesex secured their fourth straight Premier Division victory after beating second-placed Teddington by two runs – and captain Tom Nicoll believes the strength of his side’s bowling attack means they have a shot at the title.

12:00
Nahko and Medicine for the People

Nahko Bear found his mother on the internet, forgave his father’s murderer and became a musician with a message

15:45
Islington Square Show Apartment

Interior designers Amos and Amos have created a hyper local show home featuring only furniture and accessories they sourced from shops on Upper Street

15:24
Brondesbury captain Adam Wilson (centre), pictured against Hornsey. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Brondesbury slipped out of the promotion spots after a four-wicket defeat at Harrow St Mary’s – and Hornsey were unable to capitalise as they drew with Indian Gymkhana.

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now