Steven Spielberg has done it again; he’s created another cinematic masterpiece starring Tom Hanks.
In their fourth silver screen outing together, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg create magic once again with the tale of an insurance lawyer’s involvement in the trial of a captured Soviet spy during the height of the Cold War. With a screenplay written by Matt Charman and the powerhouse Coen brothers, it’s a gripping story with intense characters and high stakes. The movie itself was “inspired by true events,” and the film plays with this in various ways. Some of the scenes were filmed on location where the historical spy-exchanges actually took place. This only added to a film that already presented itself as historical thriller of sorts. However, while in a conference call with director Steven Spielberg, he clarified this:
“…when I make stories about history, or about real people who really existed, my imagination turns more toward where I should put the camera to make the scene more cinematic. As for the content of the scene itself, I need to leave it the way history has told things have actually happened.”
With this in mind, you can feel the cold and brittle nature of Soviet Russia and these locations almost are a character in and of themselves. The color palettes that were chosen indicate the feeling of anxiousness that not only Americans were feeling at the time, but the rest of the world was feeling as well as they feared another world war with nuclear weapons as the main fire power. The lead character, James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks), is the most hated man in America after he agrees to defend Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) and actually does his best to see that Abel has a fair trial. This actually pays off after he convinces the CIA that they should spare Abel’s life just in case one of the U.S. soldiers was captured and they could agree to an exchange. Tom Hanks plays this role wonderfully and makes you really root for this character that is just trying to show the world that above all things, America believes in justice and justice first. Spielberg has worked with Hanks before on such classics as Saving Private Ryan, The Terminal, and Catch Me If You Can, but when asked what makes a director want to work with an actor multiple times, he had this to say:
“[Tom Hanks] is arguably one of the greatest actors of this or any generation. He is a staple of people working today, audiences trust him, and audiences want to hear how he tells a story. Tom is a bit of a chameleon and he’s able to step out of his own personality and into the personality of someone that was called together either by writers or a piece of history.”
This film has many wonderfully cinematic tableaus and panned shots done by director of photography and long-time Spielberg collaborator, Janusz Kaminski. Every shot made you feel like you were really there, and even though there was an underlying feeling and despair in the situations at hand, you still felt like not all hope was lost. Spielberg indicated in the interview that a lot of these scenes were thought out to look like they were from “the pages of LIFE magazine and pictures from the National Geographic,” so you could get a sense of the period and pump up the historical accuracy.
If you’re a fan of Spielberg’s past works, especially films like Lincoln, Schindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan, then this film will definitely become one of your new favorites in the canon of Spielberg greats.
The movie is out now in theaters nationwide. Get tickets to your favorite Houston cinema’s here!
Thank you so much to Moroch and Coog Radio for the opportunity to listen in on Steven Spielberg; it was an honor.
By Trent Lira