Bridge of Spies (2015)
October 17, 2015 5:54 PM - Subscribe

An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.

A.V. Club: Splitting the difference between Frank Capra and John Le Carré, Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies mounts an ode to the little guy of American idealism within the realpolitik of the Cold War. Textured with ink-blot shadows, ripples of snow and rain, and pinpricks of bright primary color—a neon sign seeping red into a puddle, a bar humming blue—it’s one of the most handsome movies of Spielberg’s latter-day phase, and possibly the most eloquent. Inspired by the real-life exploits of attorney-turned-international-negotiator James B. Donovan, Bridge Of Spies turns a secret prisoner exchange between the CIA and the KGB into a tense and often disarmingly funny cat-and-mouse game, in which an insurance lawyer with a bad cold finds himself having to outwit both sides in the name of a democratic value.

NYT: Insistently dialectical, the movie is filled with such doubling, of seeming opposites who are set up as mirrors of each other: Abel and Donovan, Abel and Powers and, of course, the Soviet Union and the United States. This isn’t a matter of forcing false equivalences (though, really, it will all be one big ash heap after nuclear Armageddon), but of posing philosophical questions and positing legal truths, like those that Donovan presents when he explains why he’s defending Abel.

SF Chronicle: In the end, most movies about history are in some way about the times in which they were made. “Bridge of Spies” is not a direct allegory for our times, but rather a useful reminder that at all the pressure points of our history, there have always been people ready to do an end-run around the Constitution, out of either fear or convenience. “Bridge of Spies” tells us that the Constitution is not some quaint national luxury but the road map out of the darkness.

posted by MoonOrb (4 comments total)
I literally just got home from seeing this movie. My wife and I both found it heavy-handed in Spielberg's usual way and slow. I thought the script was noticeably weak, but the performances were decent. Hanks has the mid-century middle-aged American Serious Guy down pat at this point, so it wasn't any stretch for him, At least he won't have to worry about where to put another Oscar this year. Mark Rylance as Abel was better and very sympathetic despite playing a character who in reality was a genuine bad guy. It's not a bad movie, just sort of middling.
posted by briank at 6:51 PM on October 17, 2015

I thought the dialogue was weak. I could pick out a few Coenisms and their sensibility showed up in Donovan's reactions to some things and assorted light moments, but the story's simplification for narrative purposes and Grand Moments of the (mid-century/mid-life) American Man was really evident in the script.

I thought the production design and lighting was excellent, though. After the movie, my father told me he'd actually passed through Checkpoint Charlie in the 1970s (a bus tour of East Berlin as a sidetrip from a scientific meeting in Germany; they were not allowed off the bus once they had gotten on it right at the German Control until they returned to that Control and walked back through Checkpoint Charlie), and he says it looked like he remembered it (a decade after the events of the movie).

We - of course - came home and googled all of the major players to find out what hadn't been Hollywoodized now and mythologized in the 1950s/60s. I almost wish they had made a movie about Abel's tenure in the US, his incompetent, lazy, embezzeling, and eventually treacherous deputy, his seeming diffidence, and how he got caught; I certainly think the Coens' take on it would have been a better script - but it's not a movie Spielberg would make at this point in his career.
posted by julen at 9:35 AM on October 18, 2015

I liked this movie. I can see how some might think it's a little slow. There were plot points that would have been major themes in any other movie but were rushed through in this (the trials of both Abel and Powers, but especially Abel; the plane crash and capture of Powers), to make room for the rest of the story. It was interesting (and a little jarring) to me that they chose to do it that way. However, I really enjoyed it and thought Tom Hanks did a great job. The guy who played Abel was excellent. Someone mentioned to me that there's been Oscar buzz around Alan Alda's character, and I was like - he get maybe five minutes of screen time, if that? I guess it's not unprecedented, but...
posted by triggerfinger at 6:43 AM on October 19, 2015

For the whole movie, for some reason I mistakenly thought that Abel was portrayed by Michael Fassbender.

I kept saying to myself, wow, the makeup is incredible! It’s like he’s become another person!
posted by blueberry at 10:07 AM on January 16, 2016

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