I actually saw ‘Bridge of Spies’ when it first came out last fall. It was a time that I was falling behind on my reviews due to moving and all of the overtime at work in order to pay for my move. I’m slowly getting caught up, but just watched my ‘Bridge of Spies’ BluRay the other day. The digital copy was a pain to redeem, by the way. That’s more of a distribution issue rather than anything to do with the actual film. The actual film gets better the second time, and actually feels much shorter (it was already pretty great the first time. ‘Bridge of Spies,’ is very relevant to the current political climate of fear, not just of people in other nations, but the fear people have of one another right here in the United States (different political ideologies). That fear is often fuels by pundits. ‘Bridge of Spies’ is based on actual events, but the story telling is reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw. There is a theme that people whom society dictates should be enemies can become friends. During the Cold War, there was enmity between the United States and Soviet governments. The Russian people weren’t the enemies as they were the people who were the first victims of the acts of the tyrannical leaders.
Tom Hanks plays an insurance lawyer-James B Donovan- chosen to defend a suspected Soviet spy living in New York:Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). The reason he is selected is because the powers that be want to put on a show to make it appear as though Abel is getting a fair trial and the nest defense possible. It is clear that the judge and the jury were determined to convict Abel before the trial began. Donovan is determined to actually ensure that Abel gets a fair trial, and this causes a clash with everyone else from a CIA agent who wants Donovan to break attorney-client privilege, to the judge who ignores the fact that the constitution protects non-citizens as well as citizens and that Abel’s Fourth Amendment rights, and even Donovan’s employers who recommended him for the job in the first place resist when he actually wants to do it well. Donovan and Abel both have the most pure convictions of anyone in the film. It helps them develop a trust and friendship that directly and indirectly saves a few lives.
The second half of the films revolves around Donovan traveling to Berlin to negotiate a hostage exchange. There is a pilot that was captured by the Soviets when his plane went down over Russian air space. The US government is interested in retrieving him because he knows a lot of sensitive information. There is also a graduate student who was arrested in East Berlin because he was on the wrong side of the Berlin wall. The CIA is not quite as concerned about rescuing the student because he doesn’t know any State secrets. Donovan is very concerned about getting both men back safely. In the case of the government official of East Germany, the USSR, and the United States; they are all concerned with keeping up appearances. Donovan knows this and uses it in his negotiations for the hostage exchange. He is a lawyer with pure motives who knows how to exploit the impure motives of others-an insurance lawyer no less. These attributes are really thrown into bold relief on the second viewing of the film. Spielberg really does like to have protagonists with purity of motive, who can maneuver well around the impure motives of others.
‘Bridge of Spies’ is a contender for Best Picture at next Sunday’s Oscars. It will play at the Greene at 10pm on February 24. It is also available on DVD and BluRay and is a great addition to any collection.