By Lewis Gregory (Merseyside, England)
Bridge of Spies is a cold war drama biopic directed by Steven Spielberg and it is based on the true story of insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) who is asked to defend Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a soviet spy who has been detained in the USA. Of course, the US citizens don’t take too kindly to the fact that a US lawyer is defending a soviet spy in court, and so Donovan quickly becomes resented by many people. Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, US spy Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) has been detained by the soviets after his spy plane is shot down by Russian missiles.
Things get even more convoluted when an economics student from the USA, Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) is arrested in East Germany when he finds himself on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall. Donovan is then recruited by the CIA to help facilitate an exchange between the USA and the Soviet Union: Abel will be returned to the soviets in exchange for Powers and Pryor. The exchange took place at the Glienicke Bridge in East Berlin, which had the nickname: “bridge of spies”.
This film works brilliantly on so many levels. Spielberg proves once again that his craftsmanship is simply magnificent. He shows that he is very capable of taking a premise that not a lot of people know about and turning it into an incredibly interesting, intriguing and inspiring film. Everything that is great about this film screams Spielberg. The costumes, the tone and the camera angles as well as Janusz Kaminski’s outstanding cinematography, which really paints a fantastic picture of the period of time when the Cold War was at its highest.
It helps that Spielberg has veteran actor Tom Hanks by his side, whose outstanding performance as James Donovan emphasises the fact that he is truly one of the greatest actors of this generation. An equally outstanding performance in the film comes in the form of Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know an awful lot about Mark Rylance before seeing this film but I expect that we will be seeing him a lot more over the next few years because his performance as Abel is extraordinary and very engaging.
In addition, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that the majority of the screenplay was written by The Coen Brothers. This isn’t the sort of genre I would imagine The Coen Brothers writing a screenplay for. Nevertheless, some of the dialogue in this film is brilliant. Donovan’s monologue of “what makes an American” as well as Abel’s “standing man” speech were both particularly memorable. This shows that The Coen Brothers can write for any genre and they still have the ability to create memorable dialogue which has a lasting effect on the audience.
Yes, the film may get slightly lost and confused with its own narrative at times but it is still an excellent watch and I would definitely recommend this film if you are a Spielberg fan or if you are interested in Cold War espionage. I honestly thought that I would be bored throughout this film since it is purely a negotiation movie with zero action or fighting but it still managed to keep me engaged throughout, largely thanks to Spielberg’s sublime direction, the performances and the script/dialogue.
My final point is that this film definitely has a singular theme running throughout it: Humanity. Donovan shows true fortitude in the face of adversity by demanding that all three men are exchanged and that no one is left behind, although he is told by the CIA to simply focus on getting Powers back home safely. The film is also very relevant to the current world that we live in. I believe that more people should have the attitude that Donovan showed in this film: every person matters and everyone deserves a second chance.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5BEST QUOTES