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Bridge of Spies

Oct 19, 2015

Old-fashioned Cold-War spy story perfectly directed.

Bridge of Spies

Grade: A-

Director: Steven Spielberg (Jaws)

Screenplay: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen (Unbroken), Joel Coen (True Grit)

Cast: Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), Mark Rylance (The Gunman)

Rating: R

Runtime: 115 Min.

by John DeSando

“Everyone deserves a defense. Everyone matters.” James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks)

In Bridge of Spies (a title possibly relevant to Venice’s Bridge of Sighs about condemned criminals), 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.”

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com