film review

Review | Bridge of Spies – 2015

A few nights ago I went with my two friends to the latest film directed by Steven Spielberg: Bridge of Spies. I read a lot of positive things about this Cold War film, and the trailer also made me interested. But did the film live up to my expectations? Well, first things first. What is the film actually about?

Set in the United States during the Cold War, Rudolf Abel – who is an alleged spy for the Russian government – is arrested by the CIA. To give Abel a proper defence lawyer, the CIA recruits the American lawyer James B. Donovan. Shortly after he accepts, he realises this was only the beginning. Donovan is a decent man who feels every person has the right to have a proper trial, spy or no spy. However, not everyone feels the same way. In the meantime an American U2 spy plane is shot down and its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, is captured by the Soviets. To save the pilot, Donovan is asked to help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for Powers. To make things even harder, the negotiations take place in Berlin. Bridge of spies hanksAfter 11 years, director Steven Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks are reunited. In 2004 they made the comedy drama film The Terminal and now they’re back in the latest Spielberg film: Bridge of Spies. Spielberg really has an interesting story to begin with and also two amazing strong actors: Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. Hanks’ latest success are Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips. In this film he plays the lawyer who wants to do what feels right, not what the rest of country thinks of he should do. He defends alleged Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, which is only the beginning. Abel is played by Mark Rylance, who recently played an impressive role in the tv mini-series Wolf Hall. Both actors show their skills and despite the dramatic turn of events, the characters keep it light with some funny comments: “Would it help” (to worry). Because of this and Abel’s complete appearance you really have sympathy for the man, guilty or not.

Smaller roles are for Austin Stowel, who plays the American pilot Powers who got captured. He doesn’t have much screen time, but his character does have a huge impact on the lead characters. Also Powers’ scene in the plane looks very impressive! Before he opens his mouth to the Russians about his secret mission, Donovan must have arranged the exchange. Agent Hoffman (Scott Shepherd) is the guy who help Donovan while he is in Berlin. When all this is happening, something else is happening in Berlin as well. The Berlin Wall is being built and it’s best to be at the good side of it. The American student Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) lives in West-Berlin, but his girlfriend in East-Berlin. To save her he passes the wall, since it’s not yet finished, but in the process he gets arrested. This means another job for lawyer Donovan and a very interesting one as well.

Brdige-of-Spies-TomHanks-and-Mark-RylanceThere’s nothing wrong with the acting skills of those mentioned above and the story itself is a fascinating one. However I was never really blown away and emotions were not affected, besides some monologues which provides a smile on your face. Especially those between Donovan and Abel and the answer to the question if Able never worries. It’s a great film and there are some moments which gives a good view on the public opinion regarding spies. There are two train scenes, at the start and end of the film, which portrays this perfectly. It’s nice that Spielberg shows both sides, the negative and positive feelings. Judge Byers (Dakin Matthews) is another person who explains very well why he chooses to make some decisions. Another quite striking moment is when Donovan is travelling through Berlin and sees an incident near the Berlin Wall. Unfortunately, too little has been done with that. In Berlin some meetings are not going the way James Donovan expect at first, but he knows very well how to turn them into how he wants them to be. The setting in Berlin is mighty fine and the German people actually talk German! Which doesn’t happen often. We also see people building the Berlin Wall and the danger it entails for some.

There aren’t any crazy plot twist, the film just carries on normally. This doesn’t mean Bridge of Spies is predictable or boring. It’s just not that fascinating as I expected. I also expected the whole exchange would be harder or some plot twist. The critics are very positive and how much I liked the film, I don’t share their opinion. The setting is great, the acting is amazing, we get a glimpse of the effect of the Berlin Wall and the so called American inviolability. Besides the strong ending as to Abel’s farewell and Donovan’s return, it wasn’t emotionally moving. For a drama film, there were also a lot of moments the audience shared a laugh. Nevertheless the film shows an interesting part of the American history during the Cold War. 


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