Bridge of Spies, 2015.
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell, Jesse Plemons, Sebastian Koch and Alan Alda.
During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.
Prestigious Brooklyn defense lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks in relaxed fine form) is virtually drafted for a task no one in America wants in 1957: Defending a man named Rudolf Abel (a superb Mark Rylance) of crimes of espionage against the United States. It’s the height of the Cold War and defending anyone who is accused of being a communist spy is like painting a target on your own back, but Donovan takes the job as a duty, but he does the job so well that he gets enlisted to take the task to the next level. As Abel is sentenced to prison (which enrages the public since they wanted to see him crucified), an American spy plane pilot named Francis Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down behind enemy lines, and the US government asks Donovan to go to East Berlin to arrange a prisoner trade … Powers for Abel.
To say that Donovan is out of his element and beyond his means once he’s in East Berlin is an understatement, and without support from his government, he’s left virtually to his own honor and devices to arrange the exchange, but things get even more complicated when an American student is arrested in East Berlin, causing Donovan to want to have him freed as well. As Donovan walks a tightrope of diplomatic red tape surrounded by danger and a threat of death at every corner, the “bridge of spies” is not going to be easy to traverse as the Cold War flares up all around him.
From director Steven Spielberg and screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen and Matt Charman, Bridge of Spies is an understated character study rather than a bombastic secret agent action film, and it succeeds on almost every level for mature and patient film lovers who are willing to invest themselves in a story that is most certainly worth watching. With rich, nuanced performances and a subtle approach to the espionage genre, it offers rich rewards.
Touchstone’s Blu-ray / DVD release has several supplemental special features on the discs, including four bonus documentary extras. It will be released in the US on February 2nd. Well worth a purchase.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
david j. moore