Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks team up together again for the spy drama Bridge of Spies. Set during the historical Cold War tensions between Russia and the U.S.A., filmmakers take this work beyond a simple history lesson, character study or historical piece with a realistic journey of a private attorney among two spies, countless government officials/agents, and a politicized legal system.
James B. Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, is a private attorney tasked with defending a Soviet spy named Colonel Rudolph Abel, well played by Oscar nominee® Mark Rylance.
Spielberg and his crew set the tone in the beginning scenes in New York in an amazing sequence that gives audiences insight into the spy world and the civilian world at the same time during this period.
Audiences recognize the Brooklyn setting well before filmmakers list a text description of it, which initiates a long, satisfying experience where audience intelligence gets considerable value.
Donovan is an admirable man who just wants to get off this merry-go-round which begins after his comparable skills reveal a formidable man to the world in the public light. His deep roots in justice and loyalty demand protecting anyone even beyond the normal call.
As the situation escalates, the 1960 capture of a U.S. U-2 spy plane pilot by the Russians also factors into the plot. Austin Stowell (Whiplash) plays the pilot Francis Gary Powers.
Amy Ryan stars as Donovan’s wife Mary. Alan Alda also stars as Thomas Watters, Donovan’s managers and Sebastian Koch co-stars as Wolfgang Vogel. Student Frederick Pyror, played by Will Rogers, gets caught between sides as the Berlin Wall rises in Germany.
The unpredictable story has a steady pace written by Oscar® nominated Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen without manipulative thrills as this clear plot rings with sacrifice, patriotism, loyalty, dedication, and basic value of human life everyone can identify with.
Filmmakers have a unique approach on the authentic look and time passage during this ordeal that begins with an amazing sequence in New York introducing Abel and culminates at the Glienicke Bridge (thus the title), which connects Potsdam with Berlin.
Spielberg skips the inconsequential details as audiences get a rewarding experience when they see each character triumph along with the overall diplomatic relations victories. He uses handheld shots with effective techniques while mastering a unique circular shot at a low angle near the beginning, inside an apartment.
Spielberg’s regular crew members like cinematographer Janusz Kaminski create amazing environment dense with unpredictable elements and potential situations.
Hanks and the cast give the plot a nice center where filmmakers can showcase special areas and subtle nuances/elements.
The authentic use of technology and gadgets at the time fascinates while quick moments are still effective. For example, the countless photo bulbs from paparazzi cameras smack the ground after a public event leaving a shattered mess that reflects the events well.
The quality extra features showcase Donovan, Abel, and even Spielberg’s father Arnold. In A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies, the characters are connected to the real-life people and, naturally, a bigger picture of these events. Donovan, Powers and Abel were ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances in a bigger picture.
The details on the U-2 plane sequence contain archival voice-over from U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and a cameo by his son, Francis Gary Powers, Jr. plus footage from Beale Air Force Base. An Air Force liaison also expands on the significance of scene and their involvement in the film.
The feature Berlin 1961: Re-creating The Divide lets audiences experience the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Frederic Pryor’s arrest through a nice mix of archival imagery, behind-the-scenes moments and first-hand accounts.
This well-crafted, Oscar-nominated film lasts 141 minutes and comes with a solid recommendation (*** out of four stars). Filmmakers hold audience interest with an absorbing narrative reaching beyond politics, the military and global powers with worthwhile extra features. Rated PG-13 for violence and strong language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler