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.
As the American Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.
A murder inside the Louvre, and clues in Da Vinci paintings, lead to the discovery of a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years, which could shake the foundations of Christianity.
In the cold war, a lawyer, James B. Donovan is recruited by the CIA and involved in an intense negotiation mission to release and exchange a CIA U-2 spy-plane pilot, Francis G. Powers. The pilot was arrested alive after his plane was shot down by the Soviet Union during a mission and stays in the company of a KGB intelligence officer, Rudolf Abel, who was arrested for espionage in the US.Written by
Steven Spielberg has often tackled seminal historical events throughout his career. A history enthusiast, his knowledge of the Cold War dates back to childhood, when his father told stories of the deep-seated feelings of animosity and distrust that existed between the U.S. and Soviet Union, stories he still remembers today. "My father had gone to Russia, during the Cold War, on a foreign exchange, right after Francis Gary Powers was shot down," remembered Spielberg. "My dad and three other associates from General Electric stood in line because they were putting Powers' flight suit, helmet and the remains of the U-2 on display for everybody in Russia to see what America had done. He was about an hour away from the front of the line when a couple of Russian military officials approached my dad and asked for their passports, saw they were Americans, and got them to the head of the line, not to convenience them, because after they got to the head of the line, this Russian pointed to the U-2 and then pointed to my dad and his friends and said, 'Look what your country is doing to us,' which he repeated angrily several times before handing back their passports." "I never forgot that story," he says, "and because of that, I never forgot what happened to Francis Gary Powers." See more »
Donovan calls his wife from a West Berlin telephone booth, pays for the call with a few coins, and gets through immediately. In the 1960s, a 3-minute call from the US to Europe cost $10, and overseas calls meant waiting hours to get a line. See more »
"And the Best Supporting Actor Oscar goes to... Mark Rylance"
There are combinations of film makers that make you confident, as you pay your ticket price, that you are not going to be terribly disappointed: Steven Spielberg directing; Tom Hanks taking the lead; Janusz Kaminski behind the camera; Michael Kahn editing and a Coen brothers script (with Matt Charmon (Suite Française)). And Bridge of Spies doesn't disappoint, particularly for someone of my more advanced years (I was born the year following the film's climatic events) who remembers well the terror of potential nuclear catastrophe that hung over the world through the 60's and 70's.
In a story based on true events, Hanks plays James Donovan (diverging somewhat from reality here) as an insurance lawyer dragged by his firm into defending Rudolf Abel, the accused Soviet spy played exquisitely by British stage acting legend Mark Rylance. Against this backdrop, the international blue touch paper is about to be lit by the shooting down over Russia of Gary Powers (Austin Stowell from "Whiplash") in his U-2 spy plane (sorry – "article"). Donovan becomes instrumental in unofficially negotiating on behalf of the US government the release of Powers in East Berlin. The deal is jeopardized by his boy-scout tendencies to also want to help another US captive Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers).
I've read some negative reviews of this film in the papers that made me quite cross, describing it as "yawnsome" and "sanctimoniously dull". For me, nothing could be further from the truth and the packed Saturday night audience I saw this with seemed equally gripped from beginning to end, silent save for the odd laugh where some appropriate humor is weaved into the story.
Tom Hanks is solid and believable as the fish-out-of-water lawyer, albeit that the role is played with a large spoonful of patriotic American sugar as Donovan trumpets about the importance of the constitution over the lynch-mob mentality of the general public. Alan Alda – great to see again on the big screen – channels his best Hawkeye-style exasperation as Donovan's boss, looking for a clean and quick conviction.
But it is Mark Rylance – an irregular player in movies, and due to appear again in next year's "BFG" – who shines out as the acting star of the film. His salubrious and calm turn as the cornered spy just reeks of class and if he isn't nominated for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this then there is no justice. (A special 'casting recognition award' to my wife Sue for spotting that the actress playing Judge Byer's wife – Le Clanché du Rand – was Meg Ryan's mother in Sleepless in Seattle 22 years ago!)
The cinematography is superb with some gorgeous tracking shots and framed scenes. Most outstanding of all is the scene depicting the traumatic construction of the Berlin wall – long tracking shots in greys and blues delivering a truly breathtaking piece of cinema. In general I'd give a big shout-out to both the art department and the special effects team in making the desolation of East Berlin feel so real. It makes the similar scenes, that I commented positively on in the recent "Man from U.N.C.L.E." seem like an amateur school production.
The special effects team also contribute in making the shooting down of the U-2 a thrilling piece of cinema.
Music is sparingly and effectively used by Thomas Newman, and it can be no greater complement to the composer than that I was wondering until the end titles as to whether it was another Spielberg/ John Williams collaboration or not.
A great film, one of my favorites this year. Highly recommended, especially if you are over 50. You should also get out to a cinema to see this one – it will be far more effective on the big screen than the small one.
(Please visit http://bob-the-movie-man.com for the graphical version of this review. Thanks.)
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