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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "Bridge of Spies" a great historical drama

Oct 16, 2015 10:46AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies - © - Disney

Bridge of Spies (Disney)

Rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language.

Starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Domenick Lombardozzi, Sebastian Koch, Jesse Plemmons, Eve Hewson, Michael Gaston, Will Rogers, Peter McRobbie, Stephen Kunken, Joshua Harto, Mark Zak, Edward James Hyland, Marko Caka, John Ohkuma.

Written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.

Directed by Steven Spielberg.



Spy movies are perhaps the ultimate cinematic indulgence. If you can suspend reality for a few hours, Jason Bourne, James Bond and other fictional characters can provide a few hours of fun entertainment. These escapist franchises overshadow the fact that espionage really does exist, although in a form that would bore most people. Sometimes, the drama of real foreign intelligence can be exciting. Bridge of Spies, the true story of a New York lawyer and his involvement in one of the biggest spy scandals of the past century is one of those rare exceptions where reality is more interesting than fiction.

Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, a lawyer assigned to defend one of the most hated men in America: Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance), a Russian spy who was caught in New York City trying to steal secrets for the USSR during the height of the Cold War. Even though defending the most hated man in America puts a strain on Donovan’s wife (Amy Ryan) and family, Donovan works hard to get his client a fair shake. After Abel’s conviction, Donovan continues representation, all the way to the Supreme Court, where he successfully avoids the death penalty.

In the meantime, a U.S. spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers is shot down over the USSR. Powers survives the crash and is taken into custody by the Soviets. Powers is quickly convicted of espionage and suffers through months of torture before the CIA comes up with a plan to get him back. That plan involves using Jim Donovan to broker a deal that would return Abel to the Soviets in exchange for Powers. The deal takes place in Berlin at the height of the Berlin Wall crisis, which ensnares a young American graduate student named Frederic Pryor into an East German jail. Using his problem-solving skills, Donovan also negotiates for Pryor’s release to be included in the Abel-Powers exchange.

The drama comes to a head on two bridges between East and West Germany, where the tense exchange is supposed to happen.

Bridge of Spies is a wonderful drama from Steven Spielberg, who seems to have finally put his “blockbuster” days behind him. It’s a good thing, since Steven shows a real knack for historical dramas lately (Lincoln being one of them). Spielberg is helped along by a collaboration with the Coen brothers, who helped pen the brilliant script for Bridge of Spies.

When you add the acting prowess of Hanks, you get a wonderful film about a time in the not-so-distant past; a time when nuclear war was imminent and trust was low. Bridge of Spies perfectly captures the mood and issues of the day, and provides cause for reflection in a contemporary world where the threat of global war still exists.


Bridge of Spies trailer