This film is based on a true story and is one of my favorite movies of 2015.
It is 1957 and there are considerable tensions between the USA and USSR, who are in the midst of the Cold War. James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is an insurance lawyer who is called into service by the US Government to defend a Russian – Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) – accused of espionage against the US. Although his boss and the Judge just want Donovan to make a perfunctory defense, he feels duty-bound to do his best and launches a creative and powerful defense, angering just about everyone (since they all want to see Rudolf hanged).
Shortly thereafter, Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 plane gets shot down flying over Russian territory. Donovan is recruited by the CIA to go to East Berlin to exchange Abel for Powers. Donovan demonstrates keen intelligence and tremendous courage, playing an intense game of chicken with both the USSR and East Germany, to try to accomplish his mission. Donovan appears to be just a regular guy, but when thrust by destiny into a dangerous and critical situation, he rises to greatness.
The screenplay by Matt Charman and the Coen brothers is excellent, and Spielberg’s direction is flawless. Tom Hanks is terrific as Donovan, although the part doesn’t have quite enough range for him to get nominated for an AW. Rylance shines and might get an AW nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
This film is a MUST SEE, so try to catch it before it leaves the theaters. It will, however, work fine as a rental if you don’t get the chance.