An American insurance lawyer is recruited by the CIA to engage in a diplomatic prisoner exchange swap, at the height of the Cold War. Tensions arise as America, Germany and the Soviet Union are on the brink of yet another World War, all while the secret world of spies remains hidden in the shadows of fallen empires. James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is the lawyer at play here, defending Soviet Spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), as he defends the constitution in making sure there’s a fair trial. On the other side of the world, American pilot and spy Frank Powers’ plane goes down becoming captured by the enemy, which sets the prisoner exchange in motion taking Donovan to East Berlin to make the deal.
“Bridge of Spies” is an exceptional thriller and great Cold War spy history lesson. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have once again proved that they are the perfect Hollywood dream team. Hanks and Spielberg have made 4 films together starting with “Saving Private Ryan,” then “Catch Me If You Can,” “The Terminal,” and now this film, including the incredible television shows for HBO “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.” Every movie both of these men do is of the highest quality and “Bridge of Spies” is no different. Some average moviegoers and perhaps a younger crowd might not dig this film because it’s very lengthy and there’s a lot of dialogue with slow build up. That maybe true, but there’s one very important thing. This is a smart film made by two of the smartest working men in Hollywood. Everything in “Bridge of Spies” works well.
The set design, including the costumes, the cars and lingo are so believable as Spielberg really captured the essence of living in in a 1960’s American Cold War. There is a scene near the beginning of the film where the children at school are watching the Civil Defense Film “Duck and Cover,” regarding what to do in case of a nuclear explosion. It was really cool to see how Spielberg carefully crafted all of these little details in setting the scene for this film. The music by Thomas Newman, while not quite on par with John Williams was decent. The cinematography was superb by Spielberg’s longtime friend Janusz Kaminski, who shot “Schindler’s List” as well as “Saving Private Ryan.” The look of “Bridge of Spies” added a whole dimension to this film which harkens back to early historical Spielberg projects.
Focusing on the acting side of things, every actor involved was superb. Tom Hanks was magnificent here playing the lawyer Donovan as an every man’s hero. There were certain elements of his character that reminded me of Atticus Finch from “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Atticus, like Donovan, never stood a chance defending his client but he does it because it is morally the right thing to do regardless of public opinion. Hanks most likely will be nominated here. The biggest standout besides Hanks was Mark Rylance who played the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. He was fantastic and also will likely be nominated for supporting actor. Every one else in the film did a great job, both these two men were the biggest standouts.
“Bridge of Spies,” was written by the Coen Brothers who magnificently crafted an enthralling spy film that had patriotism, violence, heroes, villains, and amazing historical context all set again the Cold War. The screenplay was amazing, as the film had humor, smart dialogue and just an excellent story. The only fault I really found with the film was Donovan’s family, which seemed a little underdeveloped. There was a scene with his daughter and a date, that I won’t go into that had some potential but never really took off. Other than that little gripe, I had nothing bad to say about this film. “Bridge of Spies,” is a great movie with amazing characters and an amazing story. It was smart, engaging and had all the right elements of a historical Spielberg flick. The scenes taking place in Germany were tense, thrilling and had that exciting feel that I had when watching “Saving Private Ryan” or “Band of Brothers.” The film looks gorgeous and is masterfully acted and directed. “Bridge of Spies” is one of the best films this year and I cannot recommend this enough. If you are a Spielberg or Hanks fan, this film will get your attention. If you love historical films, then this is right up your alley. It may not be the best spy movie of recent years, but it is a damn good one.