In the 1950s the world was locked in the midst of the Cold War where paranoia, mutual distrust, and fear, combined with the threat of nuclear annihilation between the United States and Soviet Union. In “Bridge of Spies” Director Steven Spielberg has once again used history as a basis for a compelling story filled with real characters and emotions.
When suspected spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), is arrested New York Tax Attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is asked to provide Abel with a competent defense so the United States can show the world that Abel was given a fair trial and due process despite the charges against him.
Although hesitant what defending an accused spy will bring hatred to him and his family, Donovan takes up the task and despite a judge and process that wants to railroad this to a conviction in spite of possible illegal search and seizure, Donovan is able to avoid the death penalty for his client and even files an appeal before the Supreme Court as he is convinced his client was convicted on evidence that was illegally obtained.
At the same time, a young Air Force pilot named Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), is shot down by the Russians in a U-2 spy plane and is paraded by the Russians on television before being convicted of being a Spy.
This situation increases and already tense situation and when the East German government starts to build the Berlin Wall and takes an American student prisoner for espionage, back channels contact Donovan to discuss a possible exchange of prisoners.
Now since this cannot be done by any official sanction of the U.S. or Russian governments, Donovan must in secret travel to Berlin and meet with figures to obtain a release. The U.S. wants Powers and considers the student an expendable throw in but Donovan is resolute to bring them both home in exchange for his client Abel.
The film is beautifully shot and masterfully acted with top performance by Hanks and the leads. The events are fairly close to the historical accounts I studied as a child and Spielberg is wise to let the story and the characters drive the film and not create over impassioned speeches or tacked on action sequences to build the drama.
The film is an early contender for several Oscar nominations as far as I am concerned as is one of the best movies of 2015.
4.5 stars out of 5
By James Buckles
Again, Tom Hanks does a great job of pulling you into the McCarthy Era of the late 1950′ and 1960’s, this time as insurance lawyer James B. Donovan. Donovan is pulled into the world of spies and bureaucracy, when he is assigned the case of a Russian spy, Rudolph Abel, played by Mark Rylance, who masterly proves that sometimes less is more when it comes to acting.
Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies shows the reality of how the C.I.A., Stasi (East German secret police), and the K.G.B. used people and any means necessary during the Cold War, while still being able to infuse some light humor without detracting from the seriousness of the story or being crass. From the lies and lack of humanity in the actions of people who work for the secret organizations, to the stark contrast of the forthrightness and caring of the lawyer and the spy, the movie kept with the dark times of the Cold War while showing where some good did shine through by the acts of individuals such as Donovan and Abel.
Personally, I was very happy to see that the writers and actors took the script so seriously. They used actors who brought the stories to life that I grew up hearing about. Stories of what life was like on either side of the Iron Curtain in the US, West Germany and East Germany, with the same feeling the people who lived through it were trying to impart to me
Bridge of Spies made many small references on what life was like for the common man during those times. The lack knowledge imparted to the general public. The useless instructions for preparations of a nuclear attack, which in all honesty was only used to keep the masses calm, instead of preparing them for the sad truth of it. I am looking forward to watching it few more times and picking out other small tidbits of history.
I give Bridge of Spies 4 out of 5 stars with the hopes that with multiple viewings I will only like it more.