Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda
Director: Stephen Spielberg
James Donovan (Hanks) is an insurance lawyer tasked with defending a captured Communist spy, Rudolf Abel (Rylance), a job that nobody wants to touch. In his honest way, he expects the trial to be carried out in a just manner, and when it is not, he starts to feel for Abel, who comes across as calm and honest. When he convinces the judge that Abel would be more useful alive, as a bargaining chip, than given the electric chair, he finds himself in for more than he bargained for when he’s sent to negotiate with the Germans and Russians for an exchange of prisoners.
As you might expect from Spielberg, the film has a warm hearted, family oriented message, with Tom Hanks coming across as his usual charming and honest, innocent man in a corrupt world, self. But it works really well.
Abel is remarkably portrayed, with his love of painting and drawing, and his resignation to events being almost Zen. In the story, he becomes an honourable man, fighting for what he believes, and giving away nothing. He is quite remarkable.
The film uses humour quite a bit, and since the story is based on true events, perhaps this is a wise, albeit glossy, choice. This was not a proud moment in American history, with hatred of Communism taking on a fanatical tone. Where the film falls down is in the moments at the Donovan home, where the wife comes across as unsupportive and shrewish, only reconciled to her husbands desire to be moral when it’s done in socially acceptable ways. Perhaps this was the case, but it feels cookie cutter, obvious, lacking in understanding. Another underwritten female character. (Surprising, considering the Coen brothers involvement with the script writing).
See It If: you’re looking for a an entertaining watch. It’s classic Spielberg and Hanks stuff, but it won’t change your life.