Tom Hanks is again at the helm of one big film spearheaded by Steven Spielberg. And when this combo plasters their name on a movie poster, it’s a sure hit. This time, instead of the bloody shores of Normandy, the film is set during the Cold War, in a little bridge that act as a border between the East and West. Bridge of Spies, as the title implies, is a two-part story that tackles a lot of themes that climaxes in a planned exchange of both countries.
Tom Hanks is James Donovan, an insurance lawyer given the thankless task of protecting accused Soviet Spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). The first-part of the film depicts James as he tries to be a Cold War-era Atticus Finch, going through the motions to save or at least lengthen his client’s life. Despite knowing that the odds are against him, James tries to defend his side as he sees fit with the Constitution that he represents. Consequently, he gets attacked due to his unpopular stand with the effects and influence creeping into his own family.
The second-part deals with a prisoner exchange. A US pilot, Francis Powers (Austin Stowell) went down over Soviet territory and has been captured. Well, given the trailers, you’ll know that there will be a prisoner exchange. Anyhow, here we’re given a glimpse of how life is on the other side of the Iron Curtain after its construction. The citizens of war-torn Berlin navigate daily life under the oppression or watchful eyes of their captors. James has been chosen to helm the negotiation and precipitate a deal between the two opposing countries and the ideals that they stand for.
Tom Hanks is a wonder in his role as a lawyer/negotiator, dealing with the facets of his unappreciative country with righteous zeal. Mark Rylance’s portrayal of Rudolf Abel, although brief and mostly on the background, is impeccable and stands in contrast to the other prisoners. Also noteworthy is Amy Ryan’s performance as the James’ wife, struggling to protect her family and her husband’s well-being.
As this is a Spielberg film, immersion is key. The Cold War-era is rife of fear paralleled by the rise of modern technology. Everyone is on the edge due to the imminent threat of destruction and the film shows it, both in the people that live during that time and the surroundings that make everything as believable.
The Bridge of Spies captures a lot of themes that are still relevant to this day. It shows how a man can be attacked by his compatriots due to his following of the very rules that they stand for. It also tackles espionage and the gray areas that lie in them. Is a good spy a bad enemy or a good soldier? Bridge of Spies doesn’t bother in dwelling in the middle ground, blurting out questions about morality and the consequences thereof.
It could’ve been a perfect film if some plot points and characters weren’t dropped. Some elements just disappear without any trace amongst the hubbub of the main story.
Overall a great film and a recommended one. Sad that it’s currently showing an average of one cinema per movie house. Best view it while it’s showing! http://bridgeofspies.com/
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