Set in 1957, Steven Spielberg’s, Bridge of Spies is a beautifully filmed true spy story adaptation of the book by the same name, written by Giles Whitell. The excellent Cinematography, by Janusz Kaminski, known for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, instantly brings you into the Cold War era as we are introduced to Russian Super Spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Without dialogue we are exposed to Abel’s spy craft and how proficient of a spy he truly is until captured by the F.B.I.
Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer, is being called upon by the American Government to be the Defense Attorney for Rudolf Abel. Withstanding the pressures of being just a warm body in the Counselors chair, Donovan insisted on providing the best defense for Abel, regardless of popular thought. Donovan argued the Death Penalty should be off the table and insisted Abel be treated in such a manner we would expect our own American POW’s to be treated. Eventually Donovan suggested a trade with the Russians, Abel for U2 Pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell). The American Government agreed with Donovan’s suggestion and would only allow it to happen if Donovan negotiated the exchange himself as a private citizen. Allowing for the Government to have complete deniability if something were to go wrong.
Donovan finds himself at the Russian Embassy and eventually in East Germany, where he is met with all the negotiating and head games you could imagine. During his negotiations Donovan learns of an American Student, Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), was wrongfully imprisoned by the Germans. Donovan, feeling confident he could negotiate a two-for-one trade, Russian Spy Rudolf Abel for Francis Gary Powers and Frederic Pryor, he expressed his desire to bring home both the captured Americans. The C.I.A. greatly opposed this idea, only concerned with retrieving Pilot Francis Gary Powers. Donovan stood fast and refused to allow the C.I.A to dictate to him who was more valuable. Eventually, Donovan navigated his negotiations between Russia and East Germany successfully. Which led him to be standing on the Bridge of Spies, waiting to exchange prisoners and everyone wondering if these three countries were going to trust each other in a most distrusting time.
Don’t let the trailers or the title fool you. This is not a typical James Bond type film. There is no real action to speak of, no neat tech gadgets. This is just a thought provoking, well told tale that visually transports the audience to the cold war super spy era. Not to mention it delivers some of this years best acting from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance.
Bridge Of Spies