In the shadow of war, one man showed the world what we stood for.
An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.
ActorsStarring: Tom Hanks, Austin Stowell, Eve Hewson, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, Michael Simon Hall, Mark Rylance, Edward James Hyland, Stephen Kunken, Mike Houston, James Lorinz, Michael Power, Joe Starr, Merab Ninidze, Greg Nutcher, Scott Shepherd, Jesse Plemons, Domenick Lombardozzi, Sebastian Koch, Eve Hewson, Michael Gaston, Peter McRobbie, Joshua Harto, Mark Zak, Marko Caka, John Ohkuma, Burghart Klaußner, Mikhail Gorevoy
In the depths of the cold war a Russian agent Rudolf Abel (actually a KGB colonel called Vilyam Fisher, though the movie does not reveal this), played by Mark Rylance, is arrested. The US bar council asks a prominent attorney called James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks), who made his name at the Nuremberg Trials but now works in Insurance, to take on the role of defending Abel – they want American justice to be seen to be done before Abel is inevitably convicted and possibly executed. Donovan realises that the case will be extremely high profile and his role may make him unpopular with the public, but he assents.
The films then follows the trial as Donovan works diligently (far too diligently for just about everyone else) to defend his client. This is the time of the U2 spy plane, and pilot Gary Powers is shot down over the Soviet Union just after the trial concludes. Donavon is approached by the US government to negotiate a spy swap with the Russians, which involves acting in a somewhat unofficial capacity and travelling to a snowy Berlin. It becomes clear that the situation is more complicated than it first appears, and Donovan has to take considerable risks in order to keep the negotiations on track.
If you are even slightly familiar with cold war history then there is limited suspense associated with the events of the movie, given how well-known the Gary Powers incident is. Instead the pleasure in the film is the careful representation of that era on screen, and in the acting performances. Tom Hanks delivers a serviceable performance, but the star of the show is Mark Rylance, a tremendously gifted Shakespearean actor (best known to the public for his dazzling performance in the stage play Jerusalem, and the TV series Wolf Hall). His quiet, understated performance as Abel is about as far from Hollywood histrionics as it is possible to get, and completely overshadows everyone else on the screen. Without his abilities the film would be a fairly routine, borderline dull, spy thriller, but Mr Rylance almost rescues this otherwise rather portentous film single-handedly. Almost.