Would it help?
Why did I watch it?
Did it meet expectations?
British espionage stories, led by le Carré and Deighton, always seem to be complex and cynical tales of twisty double bluffs and multiple betrayals.
But in this American tale they just send an upstanding patriotic insurance lawyer to do some hard nosed-negotiating.
For the first half of the movie, Hanks seems to be channeling Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird or Gentleman’s Agreement. But from the opening he is upstaged by Mark Rylance’s Russian spy – a performance to match Guinness’ Smiley. I don’t think I’ve seen Rylance in anything since BBC Four’s live Richard II from the Globe, which was utterly captivating. Once again Rylance is absolutely superb (and it would appear he got an Oscar for it – deservedly).
The second half of the film shifts the action to Berlin as it gets its wall. It’s a fascinating and superbly realised setting, although it feels at times that the location is taking centre stage, relegating any human drama to be found in the negotiations to the sidelines. There’s a Rylance shaped hole in this section of the film, too, although Sebastian Koch does good work as Vogel, the counterpart to Hanks in the GDR.
A surprise to me in the credits – the film is co-written by the Coen brothers.
You should watch it if…
- You enjoy (American) espionage thrillers
- The first days of the partitioning of East Berlin are of interest
You shouldn’t watch it if…
- You prefer speed and action to slow-build and atmosphere
Up next: A Liar’s Autobiography (2012)