So I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve never been that much of a Tom Hanks fan. Before you storm my comment section, allow me to clarify.
I do think he’s a really good actor, I’ve just not seen many of his films. In addition, since I’ve been brought up in France watching dubbed films with French voice-overs, he’s never won my lifelong loyalty through association with my favourite childhood cowboy.
That being said, few will argue Hanks doesn’t put on a great performance as James Donovan, an American lawyer who becomes public enemy number 1 by taking the unpopular job of defending a captured Soviet spy at the height of the Cold War.
As his legal case unfolds against a rather partisan court, Donovan gets sent to East Berlin to take part in tense prisoner exchange negotiations between three hostile nations. Talk of escalating quickly.
The film is a success for several reasons. Firstly, it paints an intriguing picture of the American public’s very real paranoia during the 1960s, as well as the fanatical nationalist elan it caused.
It is also the story of a genuine personal bond which comes to unite two men everything should oppose. Together, Hanks and Mark Rylance (who plays Russian spy Rudolf Abel) give a subtle and emotional portrayal of the relationship, without over the top dialogues nor cheap tears. Rylance’s Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor is entirely deserved, whilst Spielberg also should get credit for emphasizing the spy’s poetic side and humanity rather than succumb to the usual cliches.
Although a little slow in some parts especially in the final quarter, the film was very enjoyable and even funny at times. It will no doubt spark the interest of Cold War curious, and is also more current than it seems.
Bridge of Spies is a tale from a different age, when cars looked different, men wore hats and women belonged where Tyson Fury would love to see them: in the kitchen.
Yet it shouldn’t be dismissed as politically irrelevant. As ever, our way of life faces dangerous enemies, and it’s very plausible they will come to answer for their actions in our courts of law one day, too.
When that day comes, we should ensure they get a lesson in the justice and dignity we pride ourselves for, and which contrast our two sets of values so drastically. That’s the message Hank’s character articulates so well in Bridge of Spies, while reminding us not all meaningful struggles are in arms.
Bridge of Spies is out in cinemas now. Check it out.