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SPIELBERG DIRECTS HANKS IN BRIDGE OF SPIES

year: 2015 director: Steven Spielberg Writers: Matt Charman, Joel and Ethan Coen Starring: Tom Hanks
Cold War thrillers aren't always very thrilling, and mostly rely on mellow, page-turning espionage led by tons of dialogue. Thus Steven Spielberg creatively glides through the real life story of James B. Donovan, a very reluctant insurance lawyer hired to take on an inconvenient, controversial, potentially dangerous yet legitimately lawful case in 1957, an era when most movies have American bigwigs, from the FBI to the CIA to all things Military, behaving worse than demonic mobsters.

Hanks in the rain
This particular vehicle is really a simple tale that, despite making the accused, kindhearted, soft-spoken Russian Spy seem a bit too perfect compared to his riled-up U.S. captors, Hanks fits everything together, not playing the role like a modern progressive stuck in a one-dimensional decade while somehow reflectively "knowing better," as happens in a lot of post-WWII history flicks: he really seems (and looks) like he's from that particular era, learning while moving from one semi intriguing obstacle to the next.

If it's said that BRIDGE OF SPIES is a slow and/or boring motion picture, well, there is one scene in a fast moving car, and Spielberg gets his war-action on when a spy plane is shot down with a last-minute parachute... And that pilot (plus an added young man, not very fleshed-out but representing "the future" educational system) is a possible trade-off for Hanks' Russian client, originally sentenced in what plays out like a dressed-up Kangaroo court, becoming a sort of older, wise mentor while sharing a Ben Kingsley/Liam Neeson SCHINDER'S LIST style chemistry with Hanks: needing few spoken words to genuinely bond.

Eventually, when our hero goes from America to the divided Germany,  there's never a feeling of serious, impending danger. But his determined discomfort is palpable enough to drive the story of an otherwise common man hired for the last thing he wanted to be part of, and, thinking on his toes, makes for an interesting "character" in a nicely flowing Cold War flick that's perfectly lukewarm... feeling like it intentionally settles for pretty good instead of Oscar-bait greatness, and in that, succeeds.

RATING: ***1/2
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