FILM REVIEW: BLACK MASS (15)

Black Mass
Black Mass

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It comes up short of classic status – and therefore won’t quite make the Oscar impact it surely intended – but competently provides a solid take on the classic US versus Soviet Union espionage formula with this ‘based on true events’ tale.

Set in 1962, Hanks stars as renowned Brooklyn insurance lawyer James Donovan, who is thrust into the middle of this war, after rising to prominence defending British-born KGB intelligence officer Rudolf Abel (sensationally played by Mark Rylance) – which inadvertently puts his family in danger due to his unwavering commitment to his client.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg for Donovan, who is then tasked by the CIA to negotiate the nigh-on-impossible release of captured American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) – in a swop with Abel – and goes to East Berlin shortly after the Berlin Wall’s controversial birth to facilitate the potential exchange at Glienecke Bridge.

Then, for the icing on the cake, Donovan inexplicably wants to throw the release of wrongly imprisoned American Yale student (Will Rogers) into the mix – in what leads to some tense negotiations that includes the Germans to boot.

And for the most part this works very nicely with a compelling screenplay from British scribe Mark Charman (which was tidied up by Oscar winning duo the Coen Brothers), and led by great performances from Hanks and acclaimed stage actor Rylance – who adds grace and wit to proceedings.

It does fall foul of being a bit overly mainstream by holding the audience’s hand a bit too much throughout the duration – which means it never quite breaks out from its sometimes familiar genre tropes – but for the most part this is suspenseful and engaging fare, well managed by Spielberg’s ever competent direction.

And when it does fall a little short – Hanks and Rylance are always there to bridge the gap.

Rating: 
4/5 
Gavin Miller