This is a rattling good film.
tend to be wary of Spielberg as, for me, despite his mastery of the
genre, his single greatest weakness is to lay sentiment on with a
trowel such that it overwhelms all else. Not so here. Although he does let
emotion have its head in the closing few minutes with a cosily
reassuring domestic epilogue, as to the previous two hours and a
quarter I was totally engrossed throughout. And all is achieved with no
showy action sequences or special effects, and with a superior script
whose writers include both the Coen brothers.
starts in 1957 with the East-West Cold War now in full swing. In New
York, a Russian man believed to be a Soviet spy is arrested (Mark
Rylance - a major name in British theatre, with a fair bit of TV work
also; less so in film up to now.). A private insurance lawyer (Tom
Hanks) is roped in, reluctantly, by the CIA to defend the suspected spy,
the American government wanting to keep their involvement at arm's
length because of the politically sensitive nature of the case. After
the trial an American pilot, Gary Powers, operating a spy plane over the
Soviet Union is shot down and arrested, giving the Russians a publicity
coup which they milk for all its worth. A situation of brinkmanship
between the two major powers develops and Hanks is slated to arrange a
spy exchange, with a most unwelcome complication of an American student
being arrested in Berlin by East German authorities just as the dividing
wall is being constructed.
cast also includes, in a small role, Alan Alda as a CIA chief, now
looking, sadly, very old (though he is now nearly 80!). The very few female
roles are merely peripheral, the main one being the Hank's character's wife,
who has very little to say.
am old enough to recall the news of pilot Gary Powers being used as a
bargaining tool by the Soviets, as well as the heartbreaking building of
the Berlin wall, with desperate Germans being shot and openly left to die while trying to flee
to the west side, in the razed 'no man's land'
area near the wall. At the time I knew hardly anything of the the Russian guy being held by the Americans.
first half of the film is set in America, the second (in which Rylance only appears at the end) is in Berlin, with the
climactic spy exchange scene on a snowy bridge. (Apparently Hanks'
conspicuous sniffling cold throughout this second part was genuine.)
film maintains its suspense throughout even though we can guess that
it'll probably work out okay - and those of us who recall the actual
news at the time know that it does. But it's still gripping stuff.
One of Spielberg's best in my view - and that's from someone who's only really
liked a handful of his films - his very early ones and just a very few
of his from the 90s and 00s. But this is certainly one to see....................8.
3 hours ago