By Cynthia Ayala
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union captures U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers after shooting down his U-2 spy plane. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, Powers’ only hope is New York lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), recruited by a CIA operative to negotiate his release. Donovan boards a plane to Berlin, hoping to win the young man’s freedom through a prisoner exchange. If all goes well, the Russians would get Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), the convicted spy who Donovan defended in court.
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have taken this new and complex event in United States history and they don’t shy away from bringing it to life.
That’s what makes this film so brilliant, the he fact that it is very honest. Hanks is an insurance attorney in this film and is drawn into this case to defend someone suspected of espionage and the whole idea of defending this man is to show the world, specifically Soviet Russia, that American Justice is fair to everyone.
Donovan (Hanks) is turned into one of the most hated men in the United States because he is doing his job to defend his client to the best of his ability, as his job demands. But the justice system is continually failing him and the CIA is trying to undermine his authority and destroy his client. There is no instance of innocent until proven guilty in this film, that ideal is just thrown out of the window and it’s just so frustrating to watch the nation play at being fair and letting paranoia and fear blind them.
And that is the point of the film; that justice should be universal and should not be treated as just a stunt of propaganda, ever.
So the honesty that the film brings with it while also building suspense and character dynamics made for a delightful watch. It shows a complex story about country and society that paints the world in a real light. There are horrors during the cold war and injustices due to paranoia and fear. This was a very cold era to live in because of those fears brought on by superiority issues and power control. It’s a film about American power versus foreign power, even if it means sacrificing the ideals of justice.
Justice should be universal, but in this film, it’s not, and it would be easy to say that of Soviet Russia, but in a world governed by fear and paranoia, it’s easy for those lines to get blurred and easy for “justice” to turn into a shade of grey. It’s complex and shows that right or wrong, decisions do define someone, they do define a nation and it’s all about finding the ground where you’re all right to do something, to sacrifice humanity for power.
Donovan (Hanks) does not give in. No Hanks delivers a very strong performance about a man who is not willing to give in who is willing to stand tall in the name of justice, in the name of what is right. He remains firm while playing the game and creates the exchange of one Russian spy for two Americans. It was a strong performance filled with a lot of heart and depth. And bravo to Spielberg and the writers for giving this real person and making sure he was portrayed in a very humane and incredible way.
Donovan was a remarkable man in history, just look it up, and this film was great at showing that and making sure that history was presented in an amazing, down to earth way while making sure the suspense was there in a grounded way. (★★★☆ | A)
– Film Reviews –
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan & Alan Alda
Genre | Rating | Length: Drama film/Thriller | PG-13 | 2h 21m
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/20th Century Fox