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.
An ambitious drummer goes to a prestigious conservatory where he meets an even more ambitious teacher. Which one of them turns out to be the bigger musical genious, the bigger egotistical maniac, or the arrogantly victorious hero in the end…?
The script is very tight and narrowly focused – probably fair to call it myopic – on these two leads. All other characters are just there in support of strengthening the focus on the battle between these two characters.