By Maria Katafigioti (Athens, Greece)


I saw Steven Spielberg’s new film Bridge of Spies, which was well made as far as these things go. Frankly, I did not expect much from it, because stories of this sort tend to be quite garbled. And while I understand that there was a great deal of imagination added to the very interesting back story, the way it was done did not take away from the presentation of history, and acting was top-notch.

Having said that, this movie was much more about backroom negotiations than espionage drama. I would have wanted to see more of the element of the latter added for an additional layer of ominous confusion, but the focus was on the lawyer who was negotiating the exchange between the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, US pilot Gary Powers, and a student named Frederic Pryor, who got caught in the crossfire of adversarial states.

The film did a good job setting the paranoid Cold War atmosphere of those days, but did so with an eye to satirizing the excesses of watchfulness. On the one hand, I appreciated that the film did not take itself too seriously; on the other hand, I realize in retrospect the worry was anything but funny. One line that the film seems to be pushing, albeit somewhat subtly, is how this fear of Cold War/nuclear explosions/terrorism can lead to us ignoring basic humanity/the constitution/civil rights. And while without a doubt those issues are concerning, I would have preferred more of a focus on the actual deal and negotiations.

I think the film would have been even better if it went into more detail showing the struggles of conflicting CIA priorities, and Soviet and East German interests rather than spending all that time critiquing the unnerved American public and judicial system, which ultimately did not owe all that much to, let’s face it, a spy that the Soviet Union would not even acknowledge.

I think that the lawyer would have done a much greater job of the nuclear deal than John Kerry – and yet, all we were shown at the end of the day were the basics of negotiations. I wanted more meat, more juice…



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