Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spielberg Crafts a Cerebral and Touching Cold War Drama in 'Bridge of Spies'

Bridge of Spies is a historical spy thriller based on the real-life Cold War incident wherein lawyer John B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) negotiated the exchange of Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) – an American spy plane pilot who got shot down and captured within Soviet territory – for Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) – a KGB agent caught, tried, convicted, and imprisoned by the US government.  The movie covers the events of Abel’s arrest; his trial, in which Donovan was assigned as his defense lawyer; how Donovan convinced the involved governments to agree on an exchange; and the carrying out of the exchange on Glienicke Bridge.

Steven Spielberg helmed Bridge of Spies, and that’s enough reason to watch it.  As usual, at the hands of Spielberg’s masterful direction, the movie flows with comfortable pacing and engaging narrative execution.  And he thoroughly brought out the best out of its competently written script – as to be expected from the Coen Brothers, who co-wrote this movie with Matt Charman.

I love the performances of Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, and the characters they portray.  I don’t know how spot-on is the movie’s depiction of these men in comparison with their real-life counterparts, but I find Bridge of Spies’ versions of John B. Donovan and Rudolf Abel extremely likable.  I can’t help but admire Donovan’s resolve, integrity, confidence, and negotiation skills – he reminded me of Captain Picard.  Meanwhile, Abel is endearing for his dedication, calm tenacity, and amazing emotional control – reminding us the fact that if a particular negative emotion (e.g. worry, alarm, fear) can’t help in bettering a bad situation anyway, then there’s no use feeling it.

I really liked this movie.  However, I have to admit that I didn’t love it as much as the fun, romanticized spy movies – Kingsman and Mission Impossible – of 2015.  But though such is my personal preference, I nonetheless heartily welcome down-to-earth, cerebral spy movies like Bridge of Spies, and I wish Hollywood would make more of them.

In the end, Bridge of Spies succeeds in being sophisticated and touching as a drama, and stimulating and suspenseful as a thriller.  And Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have surely another classic under their belts with this movie.  Every award nomination it will receive is well-earned. 

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