Bridge Of Spies

500 Days Of Film Reviews Bridge Of Spies And Finds A Remarkable Film About A Remarkable True Story

 

In the midst of the Cold War, American insurance lawyer, James Donovan (Tom Hanks), is recruited to defend captured Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance).

 

No one expects or wants Donovan to do more than an adequate job. In the eyes of the courts and society in general, Abel is guilty and should be sentenced to death. 

 

However, Donovan believes that it is his duty to uphold the American constitution and defend Abel to the very best of his ability.

 

His case for the defense falls on resolutely deaf ears until Donovan suggests that a living Abel could prove invaluable should the US need to negotiate the release of one of their own.  ,

 

His insight is proved correct when US pilot, Frances Gary Powers, is captured by Soviet Russia. Donovan then finds himself at the very center of negotiations for an unprecedented spy swap.

Is It Any Good?

As soon as Bridge Of Spies began, I felt myself relax. I knew that I was in good hands. The hands of master storyteller, Steven Spielberg.

 

Bridge Of Spies is a superb and immensely satisfying film. It helps, of course, that the film is based on such a remarkable true story. However, I also loved Bridge Of Spies for its tremendous performances, its smart, concise and funny script and for the way it feels both utterly authentic and also completely relevant. 

 

The story starts in 1957 with the arrest of Rudolf Abel. Rylance is incredible as Abel (he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role). His performance is effortless - he seems to do very little and yet, with an (almost imperceptible) look or gesture, he communicates so much. 

 

 

This feels like a part that Hanks was born to play. By the end of the film, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in this role. Donovan is personable, but steadfast. He has much to lose and yet he will not compromise. Even before he takes Abel’s case we see that he is no pushover.

 

Hanks and Rylance have such chemistry on screen. Their interactions are poignant and convincing. We understand the danger facing the two men and really care about their fate.

 

As Bridge Of Spies moves into its spy swap phase, so the story becomes more complex. However, the script by Joel and Ethan Coen is clear and accessible. We know exactly what is happening - even as negotiations get messy.

 

In addition, the Coens fill Bridge Of Spies with a warm sense of humour, helping to alleviate the significant tension in the film.

 

 

Bridge Of Spies looks and feels so authentic. The film’s locations are wonderful and convincing. There is much attention to period detail. I particularly liked the moment when, after the trial, Donovan has to crunch through all of the used camera bulbs that the reporters have left behind. What a great touch.

 

Meanwhile, Spielberg carefully recreates the atmosphere of the time. The film features scenes that remind us how that nuclear threat was ever present and even taught in schools. This all helps us to remember the heightened Cold War tensions of the era. 

 

However, I was also struck by how relevant Bridge Of Spies feels today. In one commanding scene, Donovan stands his ground and demands that we treat others by our own high standards. He argues that we should never sink to the level of those who would seek to attack us. Our values are the very essence of our society and we should defend them to the last.

 

This message feels so powerful today. I just hope that the future holds more people like James Donovan to hold our society to account.

Random Observations

Have you seen Bridge Of Spies?

 

If you have, what did you think of this film? I would love to know - leave me a comment in the box below!

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