During the Cold War, U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is captured by the Soviet Union after his U-2 spy plane gets shot down. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, Powers’ only hope is New York lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) who is recruited by the CIA to negotiate his release. Donovan then boards a plane to Berlin to try to secure Powers’ freedom through a prisoner exchange. If all went according to plan, the Soviets would get Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), the convicted spy who Donovan defended earlier in court.
I will say that the film is not as exciting as the trailer but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There isn’t too much action or suspense as the core of this film is based on conversations between characters. The suspense comes from whether or not the people on the other side will follow through with what they say and whether or not the situation in which the characters are in the middle of, The Cold War, will have an impact on the proceedings. But what had the potential to be quite dull was not thanks to the performances of Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, the direction by Steven Spielberg, the score, and the cinematography that really captured the paranoia in that corner of the world during the Cold War. Hanks is great here as he was the only reason I saw this film. In his best role since Captain Phillips (I still think he should have been nominated for an Oscar for that one instead of Christian Bale for American Hustle). I liked him in this one because I found his character to be very endearing and very human. I also found that this went well when juxtaposed against the world he was in. Rylance, who I have never heard of before this, stole scenes as the Soviet spy Abel. He was very witty with a calm demeanour and who never let the situation get to him. He and Hanks had great chemistry which made their scenes together very entertaining. I just wish they could have had more scenes together as their storyline was only for the first quarter when Donovan defended Abel in court and a little near the end of the film during the exchange. The reason I say this is because the middle of the film was not as exciting to me since it dealt with Hanks being in Berlin during the Cold War and having his character negotiating for the release of Powers and also another prisoner Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers). These scenes were still good because of the great script by the Coen brothers and the acting by Hanks and others. They just just didn’t have the same weight for me since the film chose to focus on Hanks’s character Donovan instead of the characters he was trying to rescue so they came off as one-dimensional. I guess they just wanted Powers for what he knew but they still could have fleshed him out more than just in the one scene. Also it is evident that this is taking place during the Cold War but I wished I had more of a sense of that. In other words, they could have gone further with that idea as we never got to see “how bad” the Soviets and the Germans, who captured Pryor, were as nothing really happened to them (onscreen at least). Overall, this is just a great movie and one of Spielberg’s best.