Directed by: Steven Spielberg. Gearing up for a trip to Europe, I started scratching a few nerd itches—generally Europe, generally Berlin, generally Cold War. This included taking another look at that great miniseries about real-life Cold War terrorism, Carlos, and also another look (the third or fourth at least) at my favourite Steven Spielberg movie, Munich. Even though Munich was a long time ago, and there have been a few Spielberg things in between that weren’t as good as it, but were still pretty good (Lincoln for starters), I was still kind of cautiously optimistic that this would be a really great Cold War spy thriller. Instead, it’s a pretty good Spielberg/Tom Hanks movie. You know what I mean? I love Tom Hanks as much as the next person, but he’s no Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. And that’s not fair either, because these are very different films. This is a predictable modern-day American Cold War thriller, mildly critical of the States, but actually critical of the USSR. As always, you have to ask, how brave is it for a mainstream Hollywood movie to take a brave stand against the official enemy of the country—and you really have to ask how brave is it when you’re taking a brave stand against the old, irrelevant, defeated official enemy of the country. But hey, nobody watches Spielberg for biting political commentary. Munich is going to be the closest we ever get to that, because it’s crystal clear now that he doesn’t want to touch anything controversial with a ten-foot pole (as if it wasn’t obvious enough before). As for this movie, it’s a fine movie, a good movie, not a great movie. Tom Hanks is good, although he’s really just doing his Tom Hanks thing like always. Mark Rylance was good, and as far as Oscar baloney goes, I guess it’s good they gave it to him, a relative outsider (if you don’t count a tremendous and prestigious Shakespeare career on the stage). As usual in these things, they have supporting players who are super over-qualified for how little they do in this movie, from Amy Ryan as the stock “supportive wife in the shadow of a great man” character, to the fantastic Sebastian Koch (from The Lives of Others). And while we’re on the topic, The Lives of Others was another movie that was critical about the USSR and championing freedom over repression, etc, but which did a much more humanizing and robust and mature job of it than either this film or Rosewater, which maybe indicates the limits of Hollywood liberalism versus the insight that someone actually from the country being talked about can provide.