20 Oct 2015
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Film review: Bridge of Spies

Inspired by a true story, Bridge of Spies takes viewers on a journey back to 1957 and the time when USA/Allied Forces and USSR/Communist countries were locked in the Cold War, a frightening game of ‘Dare’ with both sides predicting the other was ready and willing to start a nuclear war at any time.

To keep informed of each other’s movements both sides employed spies, and the movie opens with the arrest in New York of KGB spy Rudolph Abel. Deciding it needs to look like he is getting fair legal representation a request is made that high-powered insurance lawyer James B Donovan provides his defence. From there Donovan finds himself in a world of intrigue, double-dealing and secret negotiations, in which he tries to inject his own high moral standards.

Bridge of Spies reunites Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (Donovan), with an equally talented supporting cast of Mark Rylance (Abel), Amy Ryan as Donovan’s wife Mary, and everyone’s favourite MASH doctor Alan Alda as Donovan’s boss. The Coen Brothers are responsible, along with Matt Charman, for transforming the real-life story and novel into the film script, and it seems like every cast and crew choice was the right one with no obvious weak spot in the movie.  

This is a gritty tale that for many generations details a time they lived through. It takes us from suburban New York to the Supreme Court in Washington DC and all the way to the freezing world of Russia and Germany. We watch as the Berlin Wall is hurriedly built and people risk their lives to be on one side or the other. Fear and distrust reign supreme, and propaganda machines whirl away to ensure everyone knows just how ‘bad’ the other side is.

The casting is ideal, with each actor giving 110% to their role. The use of colour and light is done to perfection - in the dark, gloomy scenes of East Germany Donovan sees first-hand how quickly the wheels are falling off for people trapped on that side of the wall, in contrast the scenes in America are bright and cheerful making the plunge into the soviet countries all that more depressing. The storyline is gripping, slowly building in tension until the climax on a snow-covered bridge and the ultimate test of trust between two groups of people who are convinced the other side can’t be relied on to keep their word. To ease the tension for the audience there is just the right amount of humor with both Hanks and Rylance slipping in some wonderful one-liners. This is a classic spy thriller, which shows both director and lead actor at their best, and leaves you hoping that things work out ok for everyone – including the ‘bad guy’ Abel, who is portrayed as a brave man simply doing the job his country has requested of him. 

The movie inspires one to run home and research the true story and fascinating lives of the people who were involved – but maybe wait until after you have seen the film so you don’t spoil the ending for yourself. 

Rating: 4/5

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