“The Bridge of Spies” is a consummate professional’s tribute to a gifted amateur, a smooth entertainment with a strong but subtle political subtext that’s both potent and unexpected.
The professional would be Steven Spielberg, a director with more than 40 years of experience whose superior filmmaking skills have been with us for so long it’s tempting to take them for granted, which would be a mistake. Storytelling this proficient is never something we see every day.
Spielberg is so good he makes us forget that “Bridge of Spies” is basically two separate films, one a courtroom drama, the other a spy thriller, with unexpected dark humor thrown into the bargain courtesy of Joel and Ethan Coen, who did a credited rewrite of Matt Charman’s script.
It was Charman who came across the Cold War true story of the amateur, a New York attorney named James B. Donovan, shrewdly played by Tom Hanks. A successful insurance lawyer, Donovan is taken out of his element twice over, first when he has to defend a Soviet spy in an espionage trial, then when he has to attempt an especially convoluted prisoner exchange. Read more