Bridge of Spies review
As a child who grew up during the late nineties through the mid 2000’s, I was part of the first generation to be raised in an era where there wasn’t a second great power on Earth. Being born in 1987, I was living within the Cold War for only a few years, during the last moments of an interesting generation for America; a generation that once thought that a third World War with the Soviets was possible and that any day could be the last before the bomb was dropped. It was the last of an era were today’s movie perfectly says was a war of information.
Given how many WWII movies are out there, I’m surprised that nostalgia and our obsession with history has not produced more movies about the Cold War. Though there are plenty before the Soviet Union was dissolved (Including Dr. Strangelove, Rocky IV and my favorite of the bunch, WarGames), you’d think that more stories about the era would have opened up allowing for plenty of entertaining options. Steven Spielberg is a director that has tackled WWII plenty of times (1941, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan), so Bridge of Spies should seem like a literal and figurative bridge to connect that transition.
In 1957 Brooklyn, a middle-aged painter Rudolf Abel (played by Mark Rylance) is seen picking up a secret message and reads it before FBI agents burst into his apartment. He’s arrested and prosecuted as a Soviet spy, sparking a media and public demand for his death. As per rule by the court, Rudolf is given a lawyer for his defense, which turns out to be James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks). The interesting thing is that James is an insurance lawyer with little experience in criminal law, but takes the case anyway to show that he’s loyal to his profession.
James receive hate mail and accusations from people, his own children and even get’s approached by the CIA, but stands on his ground that he’s simply doing his job, helping the soviet spy. Though Rudolf is found guilty, James convinces the judge the give a jail sentence rather then death in case of needed collateral. That moment comes soon enough when CIA agent Francis Gary Powers is shot down and jailed by the Soviets. Both governments agree to an exchange, but not only does James actually have to go to East Germany to negotiate the deal, but when another American is jailed, he tries to get a two for one prisoner.
Steven Spielberg has a track record that’s easy to rely to when defending his movies, yet I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to the political-legal thriller that Bridge of Spies is. I’m proud to say that it s engaging in a most unexpected way. While the subject doesn’t seem too remarkable, once you get to know both Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance’s (who I hope gets an awards nomination for his portrayal) character, you get a good idea of what both sides are hoping to achieve, both as a stance on what it means to be loyal to your country and doing what’s right.
Aside from being a strong character piece, Bridge of Spies has a different look then you might expect from the more whimsical Spielberg. This fits right along his darker material as most of the movie is shown is greyer tones and surprisingly gets greyer once the story shifts to East Germany. With that said, the recreation of a Cold War Berlin looks great, especially when you see Tom Hanks riding the train to the other side where the wall shows what the difference is in one moment (which I won’t give away).
I’ll give this five cold war posters out of five. Bridge of Spies is guaranteed one of my favorite movies of 2015 and deserves at least one watch from not just cold war fanatics or even history fanatics, but from the mainstream crowd. Bridge of Spies will get least start one conversation going once the end credits roll.