Back in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks teamed up for a strong string of collaborations, starting with Saving Private Ryan (1998), continuing with Catch Me If You Can (2002), and coming to a disappointing end with The Terminal (2004). Now that enough time has passed that most people have forgotten about The Terminal, they’re back with Bridge of Spies, a historical drama based on a screenplay by Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers.
Hanks plays James B. Donovan, the lawyer who agreed to defend KGB spy Rudolf Abel in U.S. court, then negotiatied with the Soviet Union for Abel’s exchange for downed CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers. That prisoner exchange occurred on the Glienicke Bridge—which connected East Germany and West Berlin—which presumably explains the title.
Given the talent involved in the movie—which also stars Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, and Tony Award–winning actor Mark Rylance as Abel—it’s no surprise that Bridge of Spies already has Oscar buzz, and the trailer’s “In the shadow of war, one man showed the world what we stand for” tagline certainly suggests the kind of thing Oscar voters might go for. It also suggests, to me, that the new movie—which seems to portray Hanks’ Donovan as a hero for fighting to give an enemy of the U.S. a fair trial—could have a message about how we treat our prisoners today, at places like Guantánamo Bay. (Recall that Spielberg’s Lincoln and Munich were both seen as using history to deliver messages about contemporary politics.)
We’ll see whether Spielberg and Hanks’s latest is more Saving Private Ryan or The Terminal when it comes out on Oct. 16.