Movies Film Review: BRIDGE OF SPIES Powered By Principles written by Sean Gerber October 16, 2015 Fear, while essential to survival, also has an unfortunate tendency to bring out the very worst in humanity. BRIDGE OF SPIES, while set in middle of the Cold War, is as applicable to our world today as it is to the time period in which its true story is told. Director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks reunite to show that what makes us human is not that we feel fear, but how we respond to it. What matters most is that we act on the fundamental principles that our reasonable minds know are right even when it’s the most difficult or frightening course of action. The capture of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) poses interesting ethical and legal questions that weigh national security against due process. Insurance lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is hired not so much to defend Abel as much as to give the appearance of a worthwhile defense being offered. But Donovan isn’t interested in putting on a show. He genuinely believes Abel, as a human being, is just as deserving of a criminal defense as anyone under the United States Constitution. Defending a man most people see as an enemy combatant obviously puts Donovan and his family in considerable danger. Hanks is so brilliant in a performance that shows his character taking every potential consequence into account before moving forward, driven by what he knows in his heart to be the right thing to do. He is very afraid at different points in the film, but it never stops him. Sometimes the right thing also proves to be the most prudent like when Donovan’s argument for sparing Abel’s life comes to fruition. The Soviet Union captures American spy plane pilot Francis G. Powers (Austin Stowell) and a spy for spy trade is proposed. The matter is further complicated by the arrest of an American economics student in East Berlin, as they want their own deal for Abel. Donovan has to go east of the Berlin Wall to negotiate the prisoner exchange with both sides. Hanks continues to shine throughout the negotiations, mixing hardline dealing with disarming wit and charm. It would be easy to give him credit for carrying the film were it not for the secret weapon that is Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel. His is an Oscar-caliber supporting performance, humanizing a character that an entire country loathes. While it’s hardly an excuse to say a soldier was just doing his job, what Abel was doing for his country at the time of his capture was no different than what Powers and other Americans had been doing for theirs. Rylance shows how much harder it is to condemn an actual person than it is an idea or a label. It feels almost redundant to praise Steven Spielberg’s direction when he earns so much of it on all of his films, but his power as a filmmaker is unparalleled. If one of the biggest responsibilities of a director is to manage the tone of a film, then let BRIDGE OF SPIES be an essential lesson for aspiring filmmakers. As dark, deep, and serious as the story gets (and it goes to all those places), Spielberg never allows the film to lose its sense of hope that the very best in human beings can win the day. His use of the camera also demonstrates his craft, like an appropriately omnipotent shot in which Judge Byers (Dakin Matthews) wields God-like power at Abel’s sentencing hearing. The story of James B. Donovan is both fascinating and inspiring. It’s not a testament to the letter of any law, but rather the ideals they were meant to uphold. BRIDGE OF SPIES is a beautifully-crafted reminder to stop and consider them, especially at a time when they seem unnecessary, for those are the occasions on which they’re needed most. Film Review: BRIDGE OF SPIES Powered By Principles was last modified: February 21st, 2016 by Sean Gerber Related Bridge of Spies 2 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Sean Gerber Sean Gerber is the founder and editor-in-chief of Modern Myth Media. When he's not writing here, you can catch him as the host of Popular Opinion Podcast, Batman News, and Marvel News! previous post Too Good To Be True – FANTASTIC FOUR Stays With Fox next post New STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Poster Today, Trailer Tomorrow You may also like Open Forum: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT... June 3, 2016 Brand New INTERSTELLAR Trailer Explores The Cost... July 30, 2014 Open Forum: SAN ANDREAS May 28, 2015 Harrison Ford’s Indy Interest Remains As Sharp... August 6, 2013 Meredith Anne Bull & Elijah Kelley Talk... January 22, 2015 Another New Trailer Showcases The Force Of... September 4, 2013 It’s a Lovely Day for a new... December 10, 2014 JURASSIC WORLD: Meet Indominus Rex January 29, 2015 Open Forum: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD May 14, 2015 New Trailer And Banners For THE HOBBIT:... October 1, 2013 stock Since this is such a unique forum to discuss a film like this, I’ll take it as an opportunity, Sean. I saw it last night. It’s a much smaller film than Lincoln, which, for the most part, is a great film. This one, not so much, at least for me. When a film proclaims “based on true events” I’m willing to give it about a 70% truth rating by Hollywood standards. When it proclaims as BOS does, “inspired by true events,” then it’s probably more like 50% truth, and 50% message movie. Where if the truth doesn’t fit the message then it shall be altered. This would take research to validate and as of yet, I haven’t done that. But Spielberg had a message to hammer home in this movie, and even so, it felt a little half-hearted to me, unlike Lincoln where there was a lot more heart. I agree with you about Rylance. In fact, it’s when he is absent that the movie loses his understated heart and relies solely on Hanks in his familiar Everyman role. But there are just some things that fall in the Spielberg MO of delivering a sermon that just don’t ring true, but I’ll have to check. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to renting the BBC series about Sir Thomas More, where I hear Rylance really shines. Wolf Hall. stock Sorry, that’s Thomas Cromwell, not Thomas More. There is a very good movie, A Man for All Seasons, about the subject.