Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA/Germany, 2015. DreamWorks, Fox 2000 Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Participant Media, TSG Entertainment, Amblin Entertainment, Marc Platt Productions, Studio Babelsberg. Screenplay by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Produced by Kristie Macosko Krieger, Marc Platt, Steven Spielberg. Music by Thomas Newman. Production Design by Adam Stockhausen. Costume Design by Kasia Walicka-Maimone. Film Editing by Michael Kahn. Academy Awards 2015. AFI Film of the Year 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2015. New York Film Critics Awards 2015. Washington Film Critics Awards 2015.
It’s the height of the Cold War, and Tom Hanks plays a insurance lawyer who gets an unusual request from his boss: an enemy agent (Mark Rylance) has been caught and is due to stand trial and, hoping to show America as the land of superior and democratic morality, the government wants Hanks to take on the man’s defense. What our hero realizes quickly is that the operation is a show trial in which Rylance is denied many of his legal rights under the judge’s approval, which annoys Hanks despite knowing the man to be guilty. Risking reputation and, given the bullets flying through his house, safety, Hanks takes on his client’s appeal following the initial verdict. When an American pilot is shot down over Russia and held prisoner, the possibility of a trade between governments places Hanks even deeper in the mire when he is asked to leave behind his concerned wife (an underused Amy Ryan) and fly to Berlin to broker the deal; then the complications mount when the East Germans detain an American university student and place him behind bars. Steven Spielberg directs this intelligent thriller with a masterful hand, keeping it smart and sharp throughout, relying on intelligent characterizations and moody imagery while punctuating the action with a terrific plane crash sequence that is beautifully achieved. It’s a classier Robert Ludlum-style thriller, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly satisfying, and Rylance in particular turns in a clever and indelible portrait.