Tom Hanks plays James B Donovan, the Brooklyn insurance lawyer who becomes the unlikely hero of a US-Russian prisoner swap at the height of the Cold War.
He exudes his customary decency, but it is Oscar-winning Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel, the Soviet spy at the heart of the deal, who steals the film.
This is a fascinating tale and director Steven Spielberg ensures that the story’s spy games consistently hold our attention – from the wordless opening sequence in which Abel retrieves a secret message from a hollow nickel hidden on a New York park bench to the later scenes in wintry Berlin in which Donovan feints and shimmies his way through cloak-and-dagger encounters with spooks from both sides of the Iron Curtain.
There’s none of the clammy suspense that marks out the very best spy thrillers, but the stars keep it engaging. Rylance gets the film’s best, most dryly humorous lines, including a droll refrain we could all adopt in these anxious times. Asked by Donovan if he isn’t worried, dire peril staring him in the face on several occasions, his deadpan reply is always the same: ‘Would it help?’