The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Bridge of Spies | Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Will Rogers, Sebastian Koch | Review

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4sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD Judy Thorburn

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4lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD

 

Bridge of Spies

Steven Spielberg is a rare filmmaker.  Not only has he produced such box office blockbusters as Jaws, ET, and Raiders of the Lost Ark,  he has also taken on serious historical narratives such as Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Munich, and the more recent Lincoln. In his latest effort, he re-teams with his Saving Private Ryan star Tom Hanks for a sophisticated spy thriller that is inspired by true events. This is the Oscar winning director's sixth collaboration with his friend and two time Oscar winner Tom Hanks. Together they are a match made in movie heaven. Add to the formula, the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) who cowrote the screenplay with Matt Charman, and odds are you won't be disappointed.

Bridge of Spies takes place in the late 1950's during the height of the Cold War between the United States and what was then known as the Soviet Union.  It was a time in our history when paranoia between the two superpowers ran high, and Americans were filled with fear, distrust, and dislike of the Russians, and vice versa.

The story follows Brooklyn father of three, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) an insurance claims attorney that is assigned by his law firm to defend Rudolf Abel (a beautifully restrained, stoic performance by British Shakespearean actor Mark Ryance) who is arrested and accused of being a Russian spy. “It is your patriotic duty”, says Donovan's boss and senior partner, Thomas Watters (Alan Alda), adding that “American justice will be on trial”.

Although Abel is deemed a traitor, presumed guilty and hated by most Americans including Donovan's wife Mary, (an underused Amy Ryan) who is against her husband taking on the case, Donovan, a standup up guy with good morals, believes that everyone, no matter how evil, according to due process, deserves a fair trail,  and he agrees to take on his defense with the best of his ability.

After overwhelming evidence finds Abel guilty, Donovan is intent on saving him from the death penalty.  He convinces the judge (Dakin Matthews) to sentence Abel to imprisonment, with the suggestion that keeping him alive, would be like having insurance, meaning he could be used as a possible prisoner trade in the future.

That scenario comes into play a few years later in 1960, after Francis Gary Powers, (Austin Stowell) a young American U2 pilot is shot down while flying his plane over Russian air space and is captured, put on trial and imprisoned with a head full of classified information.  So as to keep their noses clean, the CIA summons Donovan for a top-secret mission that takes him to occupied East Berlin to negotiate with the Russians and East Germans for a prisoner exchange.

Meanwhile, complications arise in the transaction, when Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) a 25 year old American economics student, who happened to be on the wrong side of the newly constructed Berlin wall, is arrested and imprisoned by the East German police. Defying the advice of the CIA, Donovan decides to pursue a two for one exchange deal that would bring both the pilot and young man home.

The role may not be a stretch for Hanks who has built a reputation for his roles as the likable everyman. In his comfort zone or not, he nails it, delivering a stirring performance as a rather ordinary guy that is thrust into extraordinary circumstances and must use his exceptional skills as a negotiator to get what he wants.

Bridge of Spies is heavy on talk rather than action, with the focus on men in suits engaged in secret negotiations.  While the film may lack a lot of tension and suspense, it is an intelligent, absorbing piece of cinema filled with intrigue and solid performances.

This isn't Spielberg's best film, but it stands as a powerful reminder of the importance of patriotism, honor, duty to your country, and the Constitution.  What's more, the acclaimed filmmaker manages to deliver that message in a film that is effective as well as entertaining.

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