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Legal/historical drama, not action
hoxjennifer18 October 2015
Don't be fooled by the title. Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into when you watch this film. Bridge of Spies is literally about the Cold War Bridge of Spies, where Soviet/US spies were exchanged through negotiations. This is nothing like "The Americans" (FX TV drama - for some high unrealistic and over-sexualized espionage action - redirect here) and the most action-packed scene you will see is Francis Gary Powers getting shot out of his U2 plane during his mission.

Bridge of Spies is really a historical/legal drama. And based on my preliminary research, they seem to be getting most of their facts right. Obviously a little bit embellished for Hollywood's sake, Bridge of Spies does a fine job as a historical docudrama. There is a lot of talking, but it's meaningful talking. At times, the film can be a little slow {opening scene, especially}, but give it a chance and you might enjoy it. History buffs like myself will definitely enjoy it. But thrill-seekers, you're better off to see the new James Bond movie instead.
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A very good, very Spielberg motion picture, starring Tom Hanks.
subxerogravity18 October 2015
This movie hit me really strangely.

I was expecting a political drama about the cold war, and while indeed it was that, I was not expecting to have so much fun and for Bridge of Spies to be so humorous.

The Coen brothers writing a movie Steven Spielberg would direct just sounds like a winning combination and it really was. Sealing the deal, was a great performance by Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks does what he does best, by playing an everyday man in an average life. James Donovan was just an insurance lawyer who gets caught up in the middle of the Cold War. Bridge of Spies, starts him off so normal and then turns his life into quite an adventure.

And I do mean adventure. In the hands of Spielberg, the movie's visuals were large and epic. I was expecting this movie to feel more like his last flick, Lincoln. Instead it feels more like Indiana Jones, as James Donovan travels to Berlin at the time when the wall was being completed.

Watching Hanks play Donovan who is just swept into an overwhelming situation and just keeps his cool and his charm is just highly enjoyable.

Totally loved Bridge of Spies, It's one of the best team ups between Hanks and Spielberg and even though Lincoln was a great movie, Bridge of Spies is everything Spielberg is capable of. So entertaining.
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"And the Best Supporting Actor Oscar goes to... Mark Rylance"
bob-the-movie-man29 November 2015
There are combinations of film makers that make you confident, as you pay your ticket price, that you are not going to be terribly disappointed: Steven Spielberg directing; Tom Hanks taking the lead; Janusz Kaminski behind the camera; Michael Kahn editing and a Coen brothers script (with Matt Charmon (Suite Française)). And Bridge of Spies doesn't disappoint, particularly for someone of my more advanced years (I was born the year following the film's climatic events) who remembers well the terror of potential nuclear catastrophe that hung over the world through the 60's and 70's.

In a story based on true events, Hanks plays James Donovan (diverging somewhat from reality here) as an insurance lawyer dragged by his firm into defending Rudolf Abel, the accused Soviet spy played exquisitely by British stage acting legend Mark Rylance. Against this backdrop, the international blue touch paper is about to be lit by the shooting down over Russia of Gary Powers (Austin Stowell from "Whiplash") in his U-2 spy plane (sorry – "article"). Donovan becomes instrumental in unofficially negotiating on behalf of the US government the release of Powers in East Berlin. The deal is jeopardized by his boy-scout tendencies to also want to help another US captive Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers).

I've read some negative reviews of this film in the papers that made me quite cross, describing it as "yawnsome" and "sanctimoniously dull". For me, nothing could be further from the truth and the packed Saturday night audience I saw this with seemed equally gripped from beginning to end, silent save for the odd laugh where some appropriate humor is weaved into the story.

Tom Hanks is solid and believable as the fish-out-of-water lawyer, albeit that the role is played with a large spoonful of patriotic American sugar as Donovan trumpets about the importance of the constitution over the lynch-mob mentality of the general public. Alan Alda – great to see again on the big screen – channels his best Hawkeye-style exasperation as Donovan's boss, looking for a clean and quick conviction.

But it is Mark Rylance – an irregular player in movies, and due to appear again in next year's "BFG" – who shines out as the acting star of the film. His salubrious and calm turn as the cornered spy just reeks of class and if he isn't nominated for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this then there is no justice. (A special 'casting recognition award' to my wife Sue for spotting that the actress playing Judge Byer's wife – Le Clanché du Rand – was Meg Ryan's mother in Sleepless in Seattle 22 years ago!)

The cinematography is superb with some gorgeous tracking shots and framed scenes. Most outstanding of all is the scene depicting the traumatic construction of the Berlin wall – long tracking shots in greys and blues delivering a truly breathtaking piece of cinema. In general I'd give a big shout-out to both the art department and the special effects team in making the desolation of East Berlin feel so real. It makes the similar scenes, that I commented positively on in the recent "Man from U.N.C.L.E." seem like an amateur school production.

The special effects team also contribute in making the shooting down of the U-2 a thrilling piece of cinema.

Music is sparingly and effectively used by Thomas Newman, and it can be no greater complement to the composer than that I was wondering until the end titles as to whether it was another Spielberg/ John Williams collaboration or not.

A great film, one of my favorites this year. Highly recommended, especially if you are over 50. You should also get out to a cinema to see this one – it will be far more effective on the big screen than the small one.

(Please visit for the graphical version of this review. Thanks.)
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One of Spielberg's best most recent movies
MrDHWong28 October 2015
Bridge Of Spies is a historical drama film starring Tom Hanks, co-written by the Coen brothers, and directed by Steven Spielberg. Even though its subject matter of the Cold War is something I know very little about, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am now more interested than ever to learn more about it. I rank it among the best of Spielberg's most recent movies.

In 1957, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War are at their peak. Spies from both the American CIA and Soviet KGB are a major threat to the security of both world powers and each side often resorts to hasty measures to stop any classified information from being leaked. In Brooklyn, New York, Rudolf Abel is arrested under the suspicion of being a spy. James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is assigned as Abel's defence lawyer. However the idea of defending a potential Soviet spy proves to be an unpopular and difficult task for Donovan. Meanwhile, over in the Soviet Union, an American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers is shot down and captured by the KGB. As a means to ease tension between the two warring countries, Donovan proposes a swap between the two prisoners of war, Abel for Powers.

Despite containing barely any action scenes and being almost entirely made up of talking, the film never feels boring or slow paced. This is most likely due to the Coen brothers' clever screenplay and Steven Spielberg's creative direction. There were many suspenseful moments where it felt like the prisoner negotiations would go horribly wrong and that kept me on the edge of my seat. Tom Hanks also gives another memorable performance as James B. Donovan, once again proving his versatility as an actor.

I rate it 8.5/10.
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An unshowy Steven Spielberg does a master's job with Cold War tensions, honoring a real-life attorney's victory over fear.
nsharath0096 October 2015
A feel-good Cold War melodrama, Bridge of Spies is an absorbing true-life espionage tale very smoothly handled by old pros who know what they're doing. In its grown-up seriousness and basis in historical conflict, Steven Spielberg's first feature since Lincoln three years ago joins the list of the director's half-dozen previous "war" films, but in its honoring of an American civilian who pulled off a smooth prisoner exchange between the East and West during a very tense period, the film generates an unmistakable nostalgia for a time when global conflict seemed more clear-cut and manageable than it does now. Spielberg's fourth collaboration with Tom Hanks, which world- premiered at the New York Film Festival and opens commercially on October 16, looks to generate stout box-office returns for Disney through the autumn season. For people of Spielberg's generation, the early years of the nuclear era and the stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union represents a significant part of the fabric of childhood. With the passage of time, it's possible to tell stories of the time without furnishing them with overt propagandistic overlays, and for Westerners there is the added built-in appeal of the "we won" factor and the perception that dealing with adversaries was so much simpler then than it is now. As their focus in this impeccably rendered recreation of a moment in history, most palpably represented by the building of the Berlin Wall, Spielberg and screenwriters Matt Charman and Ethan and Joel Coen have chosen a sort-of Atticus Finch of the north, a principled, American Everyman insurance attorney unexpectedly paged to represent a high-level Soviet spy caught in New York. There is no question that Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is guilty, but James B. Donovan (Hanks), a proper and decent family man with a professional dedication to his client and an abiding loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution, has a quick and intuitive read of any legal situation and shrewdly stays at least one step ahead of the game in almost any situation.
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Spielberg and Hanks--fry to find a better duo than that for a great film.
jdesando19 October 2015
"Everyone deserves a defense. Everyone matters." James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks)

In Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg once again masterfully goes to the historical drama with a righteous man's theme (think Schindler and Lincoln for starters). This time lawyer James B. Donovan is asked to defend an accused Soviet spy, Rudolf Able (Mark Rylance, superb), in order to show the world the American justice system is democratic.

The story is "inspired by true events" with the outline of the exchange of Able for U-2 downed pilot Gary Powers historically accurate. As usual, Spielberg recreates the times with the atmosphere, cars, and film noir aspect of a spy thriller in the figurative and literal Cold War. He said, "I always wanted to tell the stories that really interested me in my personal life—which are stories about things that actually happened."

Hanks is central to Spielberg's vision of the lone hero defying the odds and supporting the highest ideals of the American Constitution and the individually virtuous man. Never does Hanks overplay the good-guy card; he's just very adept at playing an everyman not always right but always righteous.

The dialogue is crisp, a no fooling around typical of Spielberg and Hanks but a charming bad guy as well: James Donovan: "Aren't you worried?" Rudolf Abel: "Would it help?" As producer Kristie Macosko Krieger commented about Spielberg, "He's got a childlike sense of wonder. He never gets tired of hearing stories . . . . " Bridge of Spies is vintage Spielberg with a Lincoln-like atmosphere, righteous hero, and intriguing multi-plot, an entertaining spy story brimming with humanity.

As the director says, "This is more about very smart people in conversation with each other, and the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads is that, if they make the wrong decisions, it's the end of the world."
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carries a spirit of all-American-ism without being too preachy, keeping a wit about it and Tom Hanks
Quinoa19848 October 2015
One of the surprising things about Bridge of Spies is not really that Steven Spielberg directed this story, which tracks the trial and then trade of a Russian spy in 1957 (an exchange for an American pilot, and someone else who I'll get to shortly). It's the kind of material that would attract Spielberg, especially with the hero of the story, Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks), who comes into a situation he shouldn't be involved with but not only can pull off talking and reasoning with people and finding the better side of a situation or person's nature. What's surprising in a way is the involvement of the Coen brothers with the script.

It's hard to say if Matt Charman was the primary writer (someone I'm not familiar with, not least on the level of his co-writers) and if the brothers came in on a polish. But watching the movie, it does make more sense - certainly more than Unbroken, which barely has their touch - since it carries a lot of dry wit in the exchanges between characters, in particular the opposing attitudes of people in this 'period' setting. Hanks' Donovan is a straight-shooting guy who believes in the constitution of the United States and wants to do right, legally speaking, by his client Rudolf (Mark Rylance in a fine, subtle supporting role), and doesn't really care per-say what he's done or didn't do. This doesn't fly well in a society that is overrun with Red-Scare fever and end up doing the worst of things when in total fear of things (i.e. the A-bomb, which gets a kind of cameo in the film in a way that Spielberg I'm sure has a personal connection with, being a child of the 50's, but I digress).

The Coens I think brought a sense of realism to things, but also stylization; the way characters talk at times there's a lot of things where people try to figure the other person out, which is fascinating to watch. When Donovan arrives at the first part of the mission he's given in the second part of the film, to do this exchange of the Russian for an American pilot caught by the enemy, he goes to the Russians and doesn't talk to the lawyer (who he thought to talk to) but some other official. Spielberg covers this expertly, going in on Hanks and the other actor at just the right moments to emphasize things getting tenser - another young American, a student caught up in the mix of things (it IS East Berlin, after all) - but the script dictates a lot of the momentum here. And at the same time the Coens aren't necessarily making it 'Coens-y', in a manner of speaking; they serve their filmmaker extremely well, giving a light air to a good number of scenes in a way that keeps the tension and suspense in a good balance.

In a way it's interesting to get this so soon after The Martian, also in theaters: two films about perilous situations and men caught in a struggle to survive, and two stories that benefit from some levity. Between the two though, Bridge of Spies is the more serious affair, and certainly Spielberg has a lot thematically on his plate. The story takes place during the Cold War time, but it's really a war-war (so to speak, sorry, couldn't find another way to put it), only with terse words and missions via the CIA instead of men on a battlefield. At the same time I feel like the message can, and probably will, resonate today; Spielberg knows that we're in times where it can be dubious whether people are put on trial and given proper legal counsel if they're suspected 'others' or combatants, and if they get the counsel who knows how the trial will go.

Bridge of Spies may have Hanks being, shall we say, Jimmy Stewart-like (I know other critics will or have), and is the guy the audience likes - his endearing characteristic in the second half, of all things, is a cold. But it's because Spielberg embraces this, as does Hanks in playing him, that he's a man who will stop at nothing to get done what needs to be done for a man's freedom and security (or how he sees it, so down the line, despite whatever happens in prison walls with glaring lights and big questions about this or that for information). Perhaps with a tougher kind of actor this wouldn't work, like I could never picture, say, Bruce Willis in this role. Hanks comes in and is unequivocal in his earnest desire for justice ("Everyone deserves a defense, every life matters" echoes another Spielberg motto in Schindler's List), and it's refreshing in a way to see this in a movie right now.

Two little issues: the film's ending is a little long, with a coda that feels like it stretches just a little longer than it should, albeit for a visual callback that does add a bittersweet tinge that is welcome and interesting; and the lack of a John Williams score (the first for Spielberg in 30 years) is startling. Thomas Newman isn't bad at his work, but it's unremarkable, and doesn't give certain scenes that do need a little extra punch or kick that 'Spielberg' type of music. It's hard to describe it, but I feel it when I do, especially during the climax.

Aside from those small points, this is near-classic work by this director, with a star in top form who is wholly convincing. It's also a wholesome movie in that old-time Hollywood sense, but not in a way that should date it any time soon; it takes a stand for what should be held accountable for those accused, and that, really, having a good insurance policy is maybe the only policy that's logical.
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Turkey Without The Gravy
teddyryan19 October 2015
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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"It doesn't matter what people think. You know what you did."
Rogermex18 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Spielberg knows what he did, but I have a few thoughts. Let's start with the title - You know, there's only one "spy" per se, who matters anyway. But it makes it sound like some thriller-diller, eh?

Now Tom Hanks - uh, what's with that incredibly furrowed, knit brow all through the story. Makeup Oscar time? Did they borrow it from a Klingon?

The woman who plays Donovan's wife? I know she's supposed to be convincingly all 1950s square - but really, heels and full lipstick all the time? Smiling at everything? At least they didn't plug in Jessica Chastain, that would not have been credible opposite Donovan's shlubby character. A performance as flat as one of those pancakes in the big American breakfast he never ate.

The youth are not at this movie, they're all out to see the latest vampire/zombie/Tom Cruise dreck. So the boomers out to see an ennobling patriotic drama have lived through all this, including "duck and cover" and the Missile Crisis. Do those of us who actually were terrorized and traumatized by all that really need pedantic little lessons about the bombs and the sirens, delivered by Donovan's delusional little genius son? I found it insulting.

Of course, all the Russians are scene-chewing geeky monsters, sometimes in such close-up we can see the beet-bits in their teeth.

Gosh, it was cold in that Cold War! So we have to see everyone blowing and wiping their noses, boogers hanging, in order to get the idea?

Exception: Mark Rylance, the only great thing about the movie. I've been watching Rylance in "Wolf Hall," and it's very impressive how he can create such a level of charismatic tension by hardly doing anything at all. He's all stillness, posture, little eye movements and gazes, all restrained, all coiled in. Amazing.

Back to the thriller at hand. So in the big spectacle scene where the U2 gets shot down, did Spielberg really need to show off, proving "Oh, I can do 'Gravity,' I can do 'The Walk'" just for bragging cred? And is it actually historically true that Powers gripped on to edge of his crumbling cockpit and just failed to hit the destruct button before his tether broke? (OH! is that a sneaky symbolic allusion to 'aborting' a mission?)

This whole thing could have been done as a 15-minute documentary (not that I'd like seeing another documentary) rather than puffed up into a dry and predictable "drama. When we see Hanks' character lying face down on his bed at home because he's so beat, I suppose if I were him I'd be concerned to hide my face for having accepted another such stereotypical heroic individual little man role.

Do nasty CIA agents really skip into the air in peevish excitement like an 11-year old when they get frustrated? (Oh, they probably do.)

It might have been more exciting to get into a row with the dopey woman in the seats behind us who kept aggravating my wife by kneeing and bumping the back of her seat - but "Would it help?"

So the Coen brothers helped write this. I guess Spielberg thought it might be more tasty to shmear some funky mustard on this baloney sandwich, but "Would it help?" My fantasy is that the Coens were often snickering up their sleeves.
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A Well-Acted Cold War Thriller
tjgoalie1318 October 2015
Bridge Of Spies is a well acted, thrilling, smart Cold War drama that features a Oscar worthy performance from Tom hanks. Bridge of Spies tells the true story of a Cold War spy swap, during the height of tension between the U.S. and Russia. The time period was so tense that when films can capture that tone it's usually special, that being said the film doesn't quite capture that tone, but it comes close. Tom Hanks performance, and Spielberg's seasoned direction manage to save the film. When the film could have been slow, they save it by using either humor, or great acting, Acting that will most likely get Hanks an Oscar nomination. In the end Bridge of Spies isn't as good as it could have been, but is still admittedly a great film that will undoubtedly get plenty of recognition at the 2015 Academy Awards.
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Lukewarm Coldwar Drama by Spielberg with many painful grimaces by Hanks
barev-850948 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
BRIDGE of SPIES, Spielberg // Starring Tom Hanks in Lukewarm Coldwar drama.

Summary: Uninspired Spielberg Mountain from Molehill with pitiful Hanks in Pain throughout. Viewed at Colisée cinema, Marrakesh, Friday Dec. 4, 2015. By Alex Deleon. With so many intriguing Cold War subjects up for grabs one wonders what made Steven Spielberg choose this relatively minor Cold War incident as the subject matter of his latest directorial effort.

The background: In the summer of 1960 an American high altitude spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union and pilot Gary Powers who bailed out and survived was interned by the Russians. At about the same time a big time Russian spy with US citizenship was arrested and put on trail for treason in the USA. Idealistic New York attorney James Donovan (Hanks) defends him in court and is then recruited by the CIA to facilitate an exchange of this spy for captured U2 spy plane pilot Powers in Berlin. The exchange took place in divided Berlin on Feb. 20, 1962 at the height of the Kennedy administration six months prior to the Cuban Missiles crisis.

The foreground: The result: a big disappointment with a heavy handed script by the Coen Brothers and some very bad acting in a long tedious dragged out attempt to elevate this subject to the level of Greek tragedy with Tom Hanks pulling slightly different variations of a pained face in every scene he's in, which is most of the picture. Greek tragedy this is not, although we are compelled to feel a little sorry for Hanks when his steadfast defense of the American Constitution is met with hate, derision, and even death threats from his fellow Americans, and then he has to hide his dangerous spy exchange trip from his own family when he volunteers to go to Berlin on a thankless top secret mission to ease cold war tensions and save an American college student stranded in East Berlin into the bargain. En somme:to sum up --

From The combination Spielberg/Hanks and the setting in Berlin, a city I know so well, I expected much more. This turned out to be a routine, almost soppy Hanks performance and a very routine uninspired turn by Spielberg at the helm. First of all I remember the era of the film very well and it did not seem to me at the time to be nearly the momentous event it is built up to be in this film. If lawyer Donavan (Hanks) was in the news for a while it certainly wasn't a very big while, and the spy exchange at the bridge was merely seen as a minor event in much more momentous cold war Events of the time such as the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1962 and The Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. I remember thinking at the time that it was nice for our side to admit for once that We also Spy and thought that might be the ball Spielberg would run with. But the mawky family drama we are given, and the overall talkiness with little backup action, plus the building up of the the exchange on the Berlin bridge in freezing winter weather to an event of Superbowl proportions simply does not have the drama we are supposed to think it had. Overall, a dud that fails to go off in a stagy unrecognizable Berlin. Recommended only for die-hard Tom Hankniks who sympathize with Mr. next-door America, no matter what he does. As for the Cold War political background -- Google tells it much better. (Google, Gary Powers, U2 incident) Alex, Marrakesh.

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Great Spy Thriller
claudio_carvalho11 April 2016
In 1957, during the Cold War, the insurance lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is assigned by the Bar association to defend in court the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), who was captured by the FBI. Donovan is successful and Rudolf is sentenced to life imprisonment instead of death penalty. Meanwhile the American pilot and spy Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is arrested by the Soviet government while taking photos from a spy plane that crashed. The CIA summons Donovan to help in the negotiation to exchange the two spies. When Donovan learns that the American student Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) was arrested in the border of East Berlin while trying to bring his German girlfriend to the West Berlin, he decides to include the student in the negotiation. However his proposal is not supported by the CIA that is interested in Powers only. Further, Powers is prisoner of the soviet government and Pryor is prisoner of the GDR (German Democratic Republic). Will Donovan succeed in his intent?

"Bridge of Spies" is a great spy thriller based on a true story in the period of the Cold War. The plot is engaging and the cinematography, costume design and art direction are amazing. It is unnecessary to comment the direction of Steven Spielberg and the performance of Tom Hanks, perfect as usual, but it is impressive the capacity of negotiation of James B. Donovan. This American lawyer is shown as an impressive negotiator, having cold blood to make tough decisions. The credits informs that Donovan has been also successful negotiating later in Cuba the release of prisoners. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Ponte dos Espiões" ("Bridge of Spies")
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Cold War Propaganda
Prolecenter13 August 2016
A new film set in the Cold War era of the 1950's was released a few weeks ago and is apparently a big hit. The plot revolves around James B. Donovan, a simple lawyer who is chosen to defend Colonel Rudolf Abel, a captured Soviet spy, in the midst of an atmosphere of anti-communist hysteria sweeping the US. Later in the movie Mr. Donovan is recruited by CIA to negotiate the release of captured American spies in exchange for Colonel Abel, including U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers who was captured by the Soviets after his spy plane was shot down in Soviet airspace. The tortured tagline of the film sums up the propaganda point to be driven home: "In the shadow of war, one man showed the world what we stand for." What we (the US) stand for is supposedly a just and humane society where everyone, even a communist spy, is entitled to a fair trial. This is set against the supposed tyranny and cruelty of communist states.

However, the version of events presented in this film and the case it attempts to make in favor of an American system of "fair play" can easily be disproved. Many relevant details have been distorted or conveniently left out of the narrative. Also, some facts have been included but presented out of any historical context. Unfortunately, most Americans will passively accept this false narrative without question or without doing any further study of their own. They will accept the movie as being a true recounting of historical events. I could now spend a lot of time discussing every single propaganda element within the film such as the dark and gloomy atmosphere in East Berlin; the scowling faces of the East German border guards; the menacing and hostile demeanor of various communist officials or scenes of torture, but I have decided to take a different approach. I will simply tell the truth of the historical incident that this film is supposedly based on; and I will do it using the memoirs of the two primary American participants in these events - James Donovan and Francis Powers.

Let's start by comparing the details and outcomes of the Abel trial in the US with that of Powers' trial in the Soviet Union. Both spies were caught red-handed and so there could be no doubt as to their guilt in both cases. Therefore, the purpose of the trials should have been simply to gather all the facts available in an effort to come up with a suitable punishment to fit the crime. Below, I have included a table that shows the results of each trial.

Powers (Soviet trial) Abel (US trial) Held Incommunicado 4 weeks 3 weeks Phys. or Psych. Abuse No Yes Max. Poss. Sentence Death (rare cases) Death (very common) Actual Sentence 10 years 30 years

Powers stated in his autobiography, written a decade after his return to the US, that he did not suffer any abuse during his captivity in the Soviet Union. Abel, however, said that during his interrogation he was struck in the face by one of the FBI agents who grew frustrated at his silence and refusal to cooperate.

Powers was told by the Soviets that execution for espionage was rare in the USSR, but Abel was informed that the death penalty was very likely to be his fate. In fact, just a few years prior to Abel's trial in 1957, the Rosenbergs had been sent to the electric chair for stealing atomic secrets for the Soviet Union. Finally, in the sentences that were eventually handed down, Powers received a relatively light 10 years imprisonment while Abel was given 30 years.

The Soviets were accused of subjecting Powers to a "show trial," but this is exactly what the Americans did with Rudolf Abel. As it turns out, despite all the blather about the high ideals of the American legal system, Donovan and his co-conspirators were really just concerned with promoting the idea of superior values of American "fair play," without any regard for the substance behind such claims. Furthermore, the real reason Mr. Donovan argued to save Abel's life was in order to hold him as a bargaining chip in the inevitable event of a spy swap with the Soviets down the road.

Mr. Donovan, the humble lawyer, was actually a high-ranking career spy. He admits in his memoirs that at the time he was supposed to be impartially defending Colonel Abel, he was at that moment still a spook! In his own words he reveals that he "still held a commission as a commander in Naval Intelligence." Prior to that he had worked as head legal counsel in the OSS (precursor to the CIA) for several years and had helped to organize the CIA after WWII! However, from the insane viewpoint of American exceptionalism nothing here is out of place, but if this film had been done from the Soviet perspective (taking into account the undeniable facts of the incident), the plot might go like this:

The US violates Soviet airspace repeatedly until one of their spy planes is finally shot down. The pilot, despite his refusal to denounce the criminal activity of his government, receives a very light sentence in comparison to America's treatment of captured Soviet agents. Some time later, a CIA spymaster shows up in East Berlin demanding the release of three American spies in exchange for one Soviet spy. Although this naturally strikes the Soviets as unfair, due to their good nature they agree. Colonel Abel returns home to a hero's welcome while Francis Powers is received with suspicion, denounced by the media and much of the American public as a traitor, and is held incommunicado by the CIA for "debriefing" for nearly a month. (All true!)

References: Donovan, James B. Strangers on a Bridge. New York: Atheneum, 1967.

Powers, Francis Gary (with Curt Gentry). Operation Overflight. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
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Good acting can't save true-life lugubrious Cold War tale that lacks suspense
Turfseer3 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
What motivated Steven Spielberg to go ahead and take on a project such as "Bridge of Spies?" I've read that it was simply his nostalgia for the Cold War era, firmly ensconced in his childhood memories. Unfortunately, the vehicle to tell that story—the combined tale of the capture and trial of Soviet spy Rudolph Abel and swap for the downed US pilot Gary Powers on Russian soil—packs little punch due to its obvious lack of suspense.

The "Bridge of Spies" narrative can be easily summarized in a short paragraph: the US government unofficially conscripts insurance lawyer James Donovan to defend Soviet spy Abel after he's captured by the Feds in Brooklyn. The trial is a foregone conclusion but Donovan convinces the judge to sentence Abel to prison instead of death since he could be used in a prisoner exchange in the future. Sure enough, after Gary Powers is shot down in his U2 spy plane, Donovan is again called upon to negotiate a prisoner swap with the Russians. A wrench is thrown into the negotiations when a US graduate student is arrested as a spy by the East Germans. Donovan deftly negotiates the swap of Abel for both Powers and the American student, and the exchange is facilitated with little incident.

As historical incidents related to the Cold War go, the Abel-Powers narrative is hardly one of high drama. A major problem is that Donovan has no single, strong antagonist to play off of. The negotiations with his Soviet counterpart, a KGB agent masquerading as a diplomat, are a forgone conclusion. We know of course that the spy swap will be successful, so where is the suspense? The "heart-pounding" moment is hardly heart pounding at all—as Abel and Powers are about to exchange places, there is a slight delay before the East Germans deliver the American student to complete their part of the bargain.

Yes of course I understand that Donovan dramatically threatened the East Germans, as they could have been blamed by the Russians for sabotaging the spy swap. But their decision was really a forgone conclusion too, as the East Germans were always under the yoke of the Russians, and were in no position to act independently (balking at giving up the student of course was their way of "saving face").

With all this lack of suspense, it was incumbent upon Mr. Spielberg's screenwriters (including "luminaries" Joel and Ethan Coen) to manufacture a series of fictional events to spice up a "thriller" that hardly thrills at all! Here a few examples: spectators at Abel's sentencing did not loudly object to the no death penalty sentence; Donovan and family were not victims of a drive-by shooting; Donovan's coat was not stolen by a gang in East Berlin (in reality, Donovan merely observed a gang nearby) and Donovan never personally observed people being killed as they attempted to climb over the Berlin Wall.

Spielberg's attempt to recreate the era is rife with numerous gaffes. Early on Donovan is seen riding in a in a NYC R-32 subway car that first went into service in 1964 (the scene is set in 1961). That wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that the interior of the car appears to be from the 70s and beyond, and not 1961. The gaffes, which include anachronisms, character error, continuity, errors in geography, factual errors, plot holes, revealing mistakes and miscellaneous errors are all detailed under the Bridge of Spies "Goofs" section on IMDb.

"Bridge of Spies" is not a complete loss as the film features some excellent acting by Tom Hanks as Donovan and Mark Rylance as the Soviet spy Abel. With its 40 million dollar budget and decided lack of suspense, I wonder why the film was made in the first place. It of course gives Spielberg an opportunity to peddle a rather simplistic and obvious message: there were some bad people on the other side of the Iron Curtain (faceless soldiers shooting people trying to escape over the Berlin War) but also individuals such as master spy Abel, who end up displaying unexpected glimpses of humanity.
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The real title should be "Tom Hanks is a hero, once more"
dierregi31 December 2015
If you expect to see much spying or bridges in this movie you will be sorely disappointed. The plot is about ace lawyer Tom Hanks (his screen name does not really matter, since the movie is just star performance) who is going to prove how good he is, both to the Russians and the East-Germans.

A rather puffy-faced Hanks is in most scenes, playing a smug and arrogant lawyer, who always gets the last word and whatever he wants. His performance as a the lawyer is rather overbearing and even slightly unpleasant, but the public still liked him a lot and laughed at all his one-liners (again, star performance, rather than good plot or script).

The spies or would-be spies featured in the movie are: 1) a sour little man, who speaks with what sounded to me an Irish accents and who was supposed to be funny with his unflappability. He repeats "Would it help if I worry?" countless times, every time getting a laugh 2) a rather dumb American pilot and 3) another sort of heroic American student, getting mixed up with foreign politics, when he'd better stayed at home. They all seem to be just props to give Hanks a chance to shine.

The moral of the story should be that all countries should be better off minding their own business. However, this sound unrealistic, so the moral is that American heroes (especially Tom Hanks) always save the day. Mind the overbearing soundtrack that seems to come straight out "Saving private Ryan"
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Burning Bridge with Boredom
kmonk-6789310 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
How Steven Spielberg went from the king of summer thrills to the most boring director in Hollywood is a problem that's perplexed me since I pried my eyes open through Lincoln.

We all know the man can make a great movie. Most of us grew up on a diet of E.T., Jaws and Indiana Jones: spectacular event films with all the entertainment oomph of a theme park roller coaster.

Then, Spielberg hit middle age and wanted to make important films for grown-ups. He made Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and Munich, but he also made Minority Report, A.I and War of the Worlds – pretty decent action films with big star power.

It looked like Spielberg had come of age with a sharpened skill set and a slightly deeper world view, but the more high-brow Spielberg gets, the duller his movies become...

Inspired by real life events, and apparently a footnote in a JFK biography, Bridge of Spies tells the story of an insurance attorney named James Donovan. A mild-mannered family man plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting, Donovan is as American as the flag itself – and it's a trait he waves at every opportunity, from gratuitous speeches about the American Constitution to his acceptance of a case he is destined to lose.

In the opening act, we watch an older man (Mark Rylance) take his easel on the subway, sit in the park and paint, and very carefully remove a fake nickel from the underside of a park bench. The nickel is hollow, and written on a tiny piece of paper within, is a series of codes.

The man's name is Rudolf Abel, and he's arrested for treason and espionage just a few moments later. Given the year is 1957, Abel's fate looks bleak. The Rosenbergs were executed just four years earlier after being convicted of similar charges, and Abel refuses to cooperate with the CIA, making him delectably disposable.

These days, he'd probably just disappear, but back then, America still believed its own propaganda and the notion of due process. It must appear as if Abel is getting a fair and just trial, which is where James Donovan comes in... It feels a little like a greatest hits album, but the scenes with Mark Rylance have real pop. The two men have an interesting dynamic as ideological warriors who landed on different sides of the battlefield, and it's the only part of the film that has any real traction because everyone else is locked in a freezer of Cold War archetype.

Spielberg capitalizes on the common ground, offering up timely and inspirational rhetoric concerning the importance of due process, Constitutional rights and freedoms, and the American way, but like Lincoln, the big speeches have all the subtlety of a Broadway musical...

Abridged from
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Mr Smith goes to a bridge
gest19698 January 2016
I am a Cold War child, born in a country which did have common borders with a Warsaw Pact member but was never a target of thermonuclear destruction. I was still at primary school when I came across a couple of serialized excerpts from Powers' memoir. He really caught my imagination. I saw "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" and "Across the Bridge" (with Rod Steiger), films in which the bridge is both the passage and the frontier, a no-man's land in which destinies can be decided in a split second of hesitation or bad luck.

Bridge of Spies was a great disappointment. Cars and costumes were fine but the spirit and the people of the era was absent. I don't understand why, when I think of "Munich" or "Schindler's List", when there are so many novels to consult for the atmosphere and so many memoirs to consult for the facts. Why was Powers pictured with such unkind shallowness? Why were CIA men and DDR functionaries such caricatures? No matter how great Mark Rylance was, where was the motivation and the ideology of the Soviet spy? Where were the political leaders of the two superpowers? How did the little lawyer from the Bronx become such a cool operative behind the lines, from one day to the other, without experiencing any fear or trepidation?

There is nothing wrong with high morals or nostalgia in cinema but when a film tries to portray an episode from a complex political and ideological conflict serving only these ingredients, then I can only be disappointed at the waste of means and opportunities. Pity.
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Missing something
tonyhaines-spp17 October 2015
It was opening night, the theater was packed and I was expecting greatness. After all, this story is right in Spielberg's wheelhouse. The time period, cold war, Tom Hanks, the stars were aligned. I will start with this notion, Spielberg's movies are always well acted, always well shot and always beautifully scored. Bridge of Spies does not fail this standard. There are clearly some remarkable acting performances. It wouldn't be a surprise to see some trophies handed out for this work. The director got what he needed, superb acting. The actors did not get what they need, superb story telling. It is the only thing missing here but it's a biggie.

If you know anything about the real life story of James Donovan you could easily imagine a truly exciting movie. The opening credit sequence included this line...Based on Real Events. This disclaimer gives license to the director to "Hollywood up" the story. So basically there are no excuses. In Munich, the director pealed your sole with great story telling, tension and acting. Bridge of Spies had that potential, at least, that's what I was expecting. Tension was left out of this movie for some reason. I theorize Spielberg did this intensionally. Why? Somebody should ask him.
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Disappointingly shallow and poorly acted out
AlienByChoice22 October 2015
Hanks, Alda, Spielberg, the Coen brothers. What can go wrong? Apparently, quite a lot.

Strengths first: the meticulous recreation of the 60's across two countries is breathtaking. The streets look 60's, the people look and talk 60's, the atmosphere is 60's. It's immersing and awe-inspiring.

Now the weaknesses: 1) Lots and lots of exposition. I understand that the millenials are expected to not know the history from 50 years ago, but come on - if someone doesn't know/love history they aren't going to see this movie in the first place. Stop wasting our time with exposition. 2) Poor acting. This must be the weakest performance from Tom Hanks I've seen in years. The guy is sleep-walking through the role, and everyone else is wooden and not worth mentioning, except for Alan Alda who steals every scene he's in. Amy Ryan is just awful I'm sorry to say. 3) Too long. Way too long. Should've ended with the exchange taking place. We don't need the "happy end" through vindication - it's completely implausible too. 4) Not focused. The pilot's story is completely surplus to requirements and insignificant - it doesn't add anything to the narrative. We don't really need to see the pilot until his first scene in captivity. Instead, the time should be spent on character development of which there is absolutely none. 5) Predictable. Yes, the story is well known and we all know how it ends, but this means that the unpredictability needs to be in the nuances. The little things that aren't part of the written history. But everything is predictable, nothing is captivating. 6) The treatment of the story. The script is by the Coen brothers but it has John Le Carre written all over it. It's a classic Le Carre-like spy thriller (thriller, not action). There have been fantastic film adaptations of Le Carre, so we know it can be done. Sadly, on this occasion Spielberg fails to deliver.

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Dull and boring.
PWNYCNY22 October 2015
This movie is long, stagy, pretentious and boring. The acting is hammy, and the characters are drab and inspire little interest. The tension should have been gripping. Instead it is absent. The ending of movie is already known and is anti-climatic. The movie seems to suggest that Abel was not treated fairly and downplays the seriousness of his crimes and the sinister nature of his work. The treatment of Francis Gary Powers is completely superficial, which makes the story even weaker. For an audience not familiar with the history surrounding Abel and Powers, this movie will not make any sense at all. This movie contains no heroes, heroines, no damsels in distress, none of the stock characters and situations usually employed to give a story some substance. Instead, the movie just plods along to its foregone conclusion. Why would any movie maker find such bland characters worthy of a movie? The real story is how the Soviets managed to shoot down an American spy plane flying at 70,000 feet. How the Soviets were able to detect and target a U2 flying at that altitude is not explained, nor is the huge political fallout caused by the Powers debacle even mentioned. Indeed, the names of Eisenhower and Khrushchev are absent, yet in the actual event they were the key players, and by leaving them out, there's no story.
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very bad fake
gorlumello27 January 2016
this is a silly and stupid set of stamps and manifestation of an inferiority complex from a lack of knowledge. In the film, the mass of historical and factual errors, and the film is not a history of the spy Rudolf Abel and his exchange on pilot Francis Gary Powers, and a pretentious propaganda picture.

It all started back in the Spielberg movie "Terminal", but in this movie took a truly catastrophic proportions. Spielberg does not have a clue about life in the USSR and the GDR, and all of his view of life in these countries is based on a picture of the American propaganda magazines and newspapers of the time (ie, during the Cold War. Who started the United States and its allies, and the Warsaw Pact was created as a response against the NATO alliance. And the plan of offensive war in Europe, originally did not belong to the Soviet Union and the United States and the United Kingdom).

If you are interested in the history of flying spy plane U-2 over the Soviet Union and the subsequent exchange of Francis Gary Powers to the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, see the Soviet movie "Dead Season". It is much better to do than this fake of Spielberg. In addition, in this old Russian movie authentic costumes, interiors and uniforms of the period. Unlike Spielberg film in which nothing is authentic, except for helmets GDR Army.

By the way, Francis Gary Powers voluntarily told all in captivity, without tortures and horrors in "Spilberg style". Upon returning to the US, he was accused that not blew himself up along with the aircraft at ejection (under catapult CIA profit laid an explosive charge) and that did not take the poisoned needle for suicide (Francis Powers voluntarily gave the needle during the arrest).

If you interesting to see a movie about Powers, watch Soviet movie "We accuse" (1985). As far as I know, in the United States was no movie about Francis Gary Powers. Although he fulfilled his soldier duty to the end, and died like a hero - rescuing children from falling helicopter.

This movie - 0 from 10.
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Some good acting in an utterly disappointing movie
alcorcrisan19 December 2015
Mark Rylance stands out as the best reason to watch this movie. And, I feel tempted to say, the only reason to do so. His lines take the cream of the screenplay. I am quite a fan of spy movies. That is exactly why I find this to be extremely disappointing as a movie. Seeing Steven Spielberg's name come up at the final credits was a sort of cherry on the funeral cake. The direction and the editing are the two most disappointing elements of this production. Then parts of the story. It is all so predictable, so cliché, so déjà-vu. I happened to watch this film in the weeks in which the BBC broadcast a brilliant 5-part series entitled "London Spy". That is everything a spy-film fan can wish for. "Bridge of Spies" is everything but that. Underwhelming at best...
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interesting historical drama and a great performance
blanche-213 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Bridge of Spies" from 2015 is about the Francis Gary Powers incident in the 1960s. As usual, with the exception of the Lincoln assassination, I remember it. This time, though, only vaguely.

The U.S. arrested a Russian spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) and chose James Donovan (Tom Hanks) who had some experience in military cases, to defend him. Abel is found guilty but Donovan is able to convince the Judge to commute his sentence to life in case the U.S. needs him later - for instance, if we should want to exchange him for one of our own.

That situation happens when Francis Gary Powers, taking aerial photographs for the CIA, is shot down and taken prisoner. Donovan is then sent to negotiate the exchange.

For many people, this will be a slow, talky drama, with one big action scene, Powers being shot down, and one scene of tension (if you don't know the outcome).

It is, however, a very good drama with Hanks giving a strong and sometimes humorous performance as Donovan, thrust into the world of international spies and negotiations. He takes it upon himself to also work for the freedom of an American student, Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) who was arrested for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

That student is the only person involved in the case who is alive today, at 83, and praised the film but thought they "took a lot of liberties with it." Well, that's Hollywood.

The main reason, other than historical interest, to watch this film is the performance of Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel. A winner of three Tony awards, two Olivier awards, and a BAFTA, Rylance is a highly regarded stage actor, known as the best of his generation. He's made very few films but he's about to make more and take the film industry by storm.

As Abel, Rylance creates a human being, portraying him as a quiet, unassuming older man sent to do a job. He bonds with Donovan, but he tells him that he's not afraid to die. He spends his time in prison drawing. It is a remarkable performance which has earned him an Oscar nomination.

Strangely, many people involved in this incident didn't live too long after -- Abel, who returned to the Soviet Union and to his family, lectured for 10 years and died in 1971; Donovan died in 1970; and Powers died in a helicopter crash while working for a TV station in 1977.

I hope the film will encourage some people to read up on this case - of course, I always hope that. Maybe some time somebody will do it rather than posting the question someone did about Gandhi -- was this a fictional character.
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Very disappointing
adrian-j-ng5 December 2015
I personally felt this film was not to my taste. I went in expecting a nice meaty courtroom drama. Turned out it was something else entirely. Something bereft of any drama at all, really. This film is about a man who faces numerous obstacles that he needs to overcome in order to do the right thing. The problem is that each time he comes across an obstacle turns out all he has to do is simply ask someone to remove it for him! And for some reason they do it for him! Every single time! He does this over and over again throughout the film. It's ridiculous. If he can simply ask for whatever wants then there is nothing at stake. There is never any tension.

I wish I had not wasted my money. And I wish I had instead sat at home watching a tin of beans heat up in a microwave. And because everyone knows you can't put metal things in a microwave, it would have at least provided more drama and more tension than the entirety of this very long and very boring film.
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Classic American Propaganda
orkunkeskin17 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Beside the good acting of Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, there isn't many good things about this movie. Tom Hanks appears as a symbol of 'great' America, doing the right things one after another, even though the authorities are against it (like it is possible for him to act so independent) to symbolize how 'great' is the US.

On the other hand Soviets are the evils as usual. Tortures against American soldier/spy, hostile military officers even against their own spy ( while American soldier does the exact opposite), scared children that got education at school about nuclear war (ironically with the footage of nuclear experiments that US did) and many other things that show how evil the Soviet was. But the American side had right causes to act unjust (not evil, just unjust) because they are patriots which is a good thing.

To summarize, it is all about taking necessary dosage of American propaganda with some good acting.
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