Bridge of Spies is a dramatic thriller inspired by true events, which are based on a historic set of affairs that bring an untold story of the Cold War to light. Bridge tells the incredibly eye-opening story of a political struggle in which a single mistake could lead to all out war. The film focuses on Brooklyn insurance lawyer James Donovan, played by Tom Hanks. He is thrust right into the middle of the Cold War, where his actions could determine the fate of Russian spy Rudolf Abel, and of the American prisoners.
Below, we break down the three reasons Bridge of Spies needs to be on your radar this weekend.
1. All Star Cast and Director
Steven Spielberg is a three-time Academy Award winning director. His portfolio ranges from the phenomenal Saving Private Ryan to the insurmountable horrors of the Holocaust in Schindler's List. It's quite likely Spielberg will challenge for more awards and accolades in bringing this historical saga to life.
The film features two-time Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks. You 'might know him' from Forrest Gump, Cast Away and Philadelphia. Bridge of Spies also shows off the acting chops of the wildly talented Mark Rylance, who starred in Twelfth Night, Jerusalem and Boeing Boeing. Rylance plays the main "antagonist." His character Rudolf Abel is the Russian spy that Donovan is defending.
Also leading a great ensemble cast are Amy Ryan, Sebastian Koch, Scott Shepherd and Alan Alda, who all deliver amazing performances in their own right. If you aren't convinced of the all-out awesomeness yet...the screenplay is crafted by Matt Charman and three-time Academy Award-winners Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (the Coen Brothers), best known for No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski and Fargo.
2. Historical Awareness
As you know from Steven Spielberg's list of famous films, he often portrays historical events and is a self-proclaimed history buff. In the case of this story, Spielberg felt a particular connection - it's a story he had grew up through and lived. In Spielberg's own words...
My father had gone to Russia during the Cold War on a foreign exchange right after Francis Gary Powers was shot down.
My dad and three other associates from General Electric stood in line because they were putting Powers’ flight suit, helmet and the remains of the U-2 on display for everybody in Russia to see what America had done. He was about an hour away from the front of the line when a couple of Russian military officials approached my dad and asked for their passports, saw they were Americans and got them to the head of the line, not to convenience them, because after they got to the head of the line this Russian pointed to the U-2 and then pointed to my dad and his friends and said, ‘Look what your country is doing to us,’ which he repeated angrily several times before handing back their passports.'
I never forgot that story.
Because of that I never forgot what happened to Francis Gary Powers.
Bridge does well to show how propaganda ran rampant and stained the public's mind with fear during the Cold War. Even James Donovan's own family started to question Donovan's actions.
This wasn't a war of combat, but a war of words and psyches - the most powerful weapon in a long and drawn out struggle. The major sensationalist coverage of the Rosenberg trial caused intense fear and hatred that rippled through the nation. People were living in fear of the unknown. Naturally, it was a dangerous time to be making headlines for defending a Russian spy.
3. What The Film Really Brings To Light
Bridge raises other questions. The combination of amazing screenplay and rock solid directing brings to light difficult themes that remain prominent to this day.
James Donovan decides to take the high road and instead of standing for his country, he stands for humanity. However, his questions of nationality come into play multiple times during the film. The CIA, members of his family, and even outsiders question his actions. There's an important scene in the film where Donovan speaks to a CIA agent and points out that no one was really "American." Donovan admits that he himself was of Irish descent from his last name and the CIA agent Scott Shepherd is of Polish descent (evident from his last name). It brings to light that some people will die for their country - but what defines being affiliated to one country compared to being affiliated with another? A piece of paper or a passport determines which country you are loyal to, but looking at the history of America, we are all immigrants.
The film also reminds viewers that no matter where you are in the world, even if something is going right for you, somewhere else in the world there are people struggling and facing problems. With the historical setting of the division between East Germany and West Germany, turmoil and strife is a strong theme throughout. This is especially prominent when Donovan comes back to America and looks around to see people living in comfort only to be haunted by images of what he had seen along the borders of the Berlin Wall. The story of James Donovan reminds you to stand firm in your beliefs of humanity, even when your country doesn't support you.