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.
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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
When the television set is turned off in this movie, picture disappears instantly. When TVs of the time were turned off, the picture shrank to a white dot which stayed on the screen for a few minutes. See more »
You have been charged with three counts and nineteen overt acts. Conspiracy to transmit United States defence and atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, conspiracy to gather secrets, and failing to register as a foreign agent.
Do many foreign agents register?
See more »
I am biased in my review of BRIDGE OF SPIES. The Cold War is my thing, always has been my thing. I am dazzled by that time in history: surveillance, the cars, CIA, Eisenhower, and the mystique of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
From the trailer of this film, I expected a delicious plate of Cold War atmosphere, intrigue, and commentary. Like a gleeful child, I sprinted to the movie theatre – expecting a non-pretentious high octane version of Mad Men. I anticipated my favorite era in history being served up like LET ME IN (a piece of 1980s period perfection elegantly directed by Matt Reeves).
I held close the trailer as I landed my perfect middle seat in the theatre. The clips of a U2 Surveillance jet spiraling at 70,000 feet, children overflowing in tears as they watch a thermonuclear film strip, and Tom Hanks' face plastered to a subway window as we see guards firing at bystanders trying to climb over the Berlin Wall.
Then you add Steven Spielberg to the mix – the master of the period piece – modern cinema - the evoker of our deepest emotions. One of my favorite Spielberg films is Munich. Munich captures the violence of the Middle East 70s with revere, respect, and revelation. This is what I wanted from Bridge Of Spies. I wanted a dark, harrowing portrait of the Cold War, I wanted this tense era exposed in Spielbergian fashion, and I wanted to have 1957-1961 ruminating in my heart, mind, and belly. Bridge of Spies, however, met none of my desired expectations.
Diluted by a PG-13 rating, filled with comedic moments (clearly due to the Coen Brothers having written or participated in this script) that don't tickle my fancy, and an avoidance of Cold War atmosphere – Bridge Of Spies hit me like a tennis ball on the head.
It's taught, adequately plotted, and the hero is smart, likable, and witty. It's garnered rave reviews. But, for anyone that likes substance, don't look here. Spielberg's story is a moral tale – of courage and standing up for one's ideals – the universal plot which Steven devours like a hungry child.
Unfortunately, there's no stakes. Hanks follows his journey and does what he does best – but his universe is given little context. You'll want turkey and you'll get turkey – but you're not getting any gravy.
**Possible Spoilers – Things that bugged me about the film was plethora of wasted opportunities. When you have Spielberg at the helm, you know what could have been –
1. The relationship between the Lawyer (Hanks) and the Soviet Captive (Mark Rylance) is an unbalanced paper weight. We get a glimpse into the Lawyer's character, the archetypal Tom Hanks - fair, honest, moral, etc. We get very little info on the Captive. He is quiet, dignified, and keeps responding to Hanks wondering if he is aware of his dire situation, "Would it help?" Rylance is the typical Spielbergian "caught in the middle guy" – much like Ben Kingsley in Schindler's List. Physically weak, trapped and powerless - yet stoic and unafraid. That being said, what are his motives? He is a spy but what drives him – where is the monologue where he explains his background, what formed and shaped him and what forms the basis of his lifelong goals?
2. What I love about Mad Men is its strong focus on the media and culture of the era. Except for the end of Bridge of Spies (where we get a clip of Pierre Salinger informing the news of the spy swap) and an early scene of a teenage girl watching a late night story, there's not much to nibble on – Spielberg wastes a huge opportunity in a class room scene where kids are watching a nuclear bomb film strip. Lifting the film strip like a YouTube Clip and then showing a few generic shots of kids watching it and one girl crying - the master of modern cinema stumbles and falls into shallow surf. In this instance, I wanted to yell at the editor – build this up, let it seep in, give us some Wonder Years or Let Me In flavor. There's none to be had –
3. Not only do we get a vapid Francis Gary Powers – due to lackluster character development and the miscasting (in my opinion), but the U2 Surveillance storyline is about 12 minutes. Give me at least 25, Steven!! When the U2 is shot out of the sky, we get about a minute of action – give us three. In addition, because Francis Gary Powers has no character development, I don't sympathize with him or even care if he comes home.
4. The PhD student who is included in the Prisoner Swap is devoid of character – another guy that I could care less if he makes it home. Both guys appeared to have a lackluster indifferent time over the in the USSR. The Soviets dowsed Powers with water and German soldiers rip up the PHD students thesis paper – oh no!
5. There is no discussion of the disastrous political implications of the U2 being shot down over the Soviet Union. Reluctant to authorize the mission, Eisenhower was smeared by its failure and left office of the President on a black cloud. However, we don't hear Eisenhower's name mentioned once in the story.
All and all, Spielberg delivers a cup of vanilla ice cream with fudge – most audiences are going to love Hanks and the Soviet spy.
In the final analysis, it's a buddy film with some period costumes and a somewhat poignant conclusion. That being said, those that want a stirring pot of fear, sadness, and elation – I suggest you wait for this on HBO and watch Munich instead.
Ted's Personal Enjoyment: C+
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