With names like Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks flashing across movie headlines, it’s hard to argue that the film will be anything but solid supremacy. Bridge of Spies is no exception, with a praise-worthy performance by Tom Hanks, which I feel safe to wager will earn him an Oscar nomination. The true story is inspired by events during the Cold War, in particular, the 1960 U-2 incident. Bridge of Spies is a captivating story of espionage that will stay with you long after you’ve watched it.
To give credit where credit is due, screenwriter Matt Charman originally pitched the story of James Donovan, a New York lawyer, who is drafted by the CIA to take on the case of Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Donovan is dropped in Soviet territory during a time in the Cold War where threats were impeding. He arranges a trade for U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down while photographing Soviet Union territories.
The film’s title refers to Glienicke Bridge, which crosses what was once the borderline between East and West Germany, where Donovan arranges the exchange of Abel for Powers. The Cold War drama’s cast is full of promising performances with contributing actors Mark Rylance and Alan Alda. Each scene ends powerfully, amping you up for what’s next. Just to put it into perspective, Spielberg’s last few dramas (Lincoln, War Horse, and Munich) all ended up being nominated for Best Picture.
Spielberg has made a major transformation in his film-making in recent years. Before Bridge of Spies, Spielberg’s last picture was 2012’s Lincoln, another historical feature which highlights the American president’s struggles of battle and slavery. We’re all used to the summer blockbusters that gave Spielberg his name (E.T., Poltergeist, Back to the Future), but this new era of great American film is an exciting development that proves Spielberg can generate any type of film with finesse and pure genius.
American history has always been a source of inspiration for Spielberg, and Bridge of Spies really hits home. As a teenager back in 1962, he recalls the persistent fear he felt at the potential bomb droppings.
“The sky was a crisscross of contrails during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I could just assume these were B-52s going to their fail-safe points,” the filmmaker tells EW. “It just exacerbated my deepest fears that the world was about to come to an end.”
As Rudolf Abel would say, “Would it help?” Apparently all the drop-and-cover routines resonated with Spielberg which has no doubt helped to amplify the hard-hitting scenes in Bridge of Spies. The film’s historical context helps to insinuate the contemporary dread that we’re being watched, leaving us wondering who to trust. Spielberg’s aim in Bridge of Spies, along with his other more recent historical films, appears to single out citizens who take risks and do what they think is right, despite what may stand in their way.
Spielberg and Hanks previously worked together on Saving Private Ryan in 1998. Bridge of Spies parallels in cinematic excellence, making it the best new war film since Captain Miller dodged bullets to retrieve Private Ryan. Tom Hanks' portrayal of Donovan is natural with a nonchalant humor that guarantees laughs. Tom portrays Donovan as a fatherly-hero that we continuously root for despite his predicament, which collaborates brilliantly with Spielberg’s mission to exhibit ordinary men who make extraordinary sacrifices to their country.
“James B. Donovan was called into service to show the world that we represent everybody. Those moral themes resonated with me, especially having come off Lincoln.” -Steven Spielberg for ET.
A mesmerizing story that questions human morality, Bridge of Spies is one hell of a movie. It’s a heart-felt, eye-opening adventure that is simply Spielberg.