Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies takes a look at Attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks; Forrest Gump, Castaway) and his defense of convicted spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance; The Other Boleyn Girl). Of course, that is only half the story and, with Donovan's foresight allowing Abel life to be spared, it sets the path for a prisoner of war exchange between Abel and Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell; Dolphin Tale), an American shot down over Russia.
The other half of the story is the political game between the United States, U.S.S.R and East Germany in which Donovan finds himself entangled. The negotiations for the exchange of spies, with an American PhD. Student thrown in, are intense, convoluted and challenging, offering much of the drama in the film.
The strengths of this film are numerous, including the acting, screenplay, direction and cinematography. Hanks is mesmerizing as the sharp witted attorney/negotiator and Rylance is enigmatic as the Russian spy. The writing is smooth and the film flows beautifully from scene to scene and Spielberg once again proves why he is a highly sought after director.
The drama and suspense of the screenplay unfolds in a calm and consistent pace without dragging and the scenery and lighting work seamlessly together to set the mood of the 1950's political agenda.
I think one of my only complaints was the soundtrack. As Hanks' Donovan sits on the plane home form Germany after the prisoner exchange, the orchestration was reminiscent of another hanks film, Apollo 13. I kept hearing the haunting trumpet in my head and it became a little distracting.
Despite that mild irritant, any Oscar buzz Bridge of Spies garners is well deserved. Well made, beautifully acted and thematically shot, it is more than an entertaining evening at the movies. It is a journey through our history that is both enjoyable and poignant.