To be very honest, there were only two things that drew me to this movie: Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. A world class actor and a world-class director. What could go wrong, right?
Bridge of Spies is a “based on true events” movie set in the Cold War Era. To cut a long story short, Hanks plays Donovan, a lawyer who is hired to defend a Russian spy caught in Brooklyn. He faces the wrath of the public for being sympathetic to the Russian spy, and criticism from his own wife. While the Russian spy is pronounced guilty, Donovan manages to subvert the death sentence.
At the same time, we have a group of American pilots who fly out into the Russian zone, out of which, one, Powers, is shot down and captured by the Russians.
Another American, Pryor, a student in East Germany, is captured as he crosses over into West Berlin at the time the Berlin wall is being erected. He is arrested as a spy.
So there you have it. One Russian spy captured in the US. Two American spies captured abroad. In steps Donovan, who arranges for an exchange of spies: you release our American people, and we release your Russian spy. No points to guess where the exchange takes place. Yes, it takes place on a bridge, hence, we have a bridge of spies.
I went in with high expectations. Tom Hanks does an incredible job playing the lawyer. He reminds you why he is one of the best actors we have around (Sleepless in Seattle, Cast Away, Big, Saving Private Ryan. Philadelphia among so many others). I absolutely loved watching him. The courtroom scenes are a delight to watch. Spielberg handles the movie very well with his direction.
The problem I had with the movie was its subject matter. Essentially the story is very simple, a retelling of Donovan’s part in exchange of spies. Predictability factor set in, and to be very honest, I did catch a few winks during some of the more boring scenes.
In the hands of another director or another actor, I don’t think I would have watched this movie. I also couldn’t relate very well to the whole Americans-save-the-world attitude (there is a conversation between Donovan the lawyer and a FBI agent about what it means to be an American!)
Technically, it’s a brilliant movie. Subject wise, I am not a huge fan. I expected a lot more, in terms of content and thrills. and a day after watching the movie, the only redeeming factor in my mind was the sheer brilliance of Tom Hanks’ acting. I also want to mention Mark Rylance, who plays Rudolph Abel the Russian spy- he does a very job of portraying the spy agent: controlled, nuance and humanizing.
(Do watch out for a scene where they show the air force base in Peshawar, Pakistan)
2 out of 5