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Bridge of Spies: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks Reunite for One of the Best Films of 2015

October 12, 2015

Bridge of Spies movie poster

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What I love most about Bridge of Spies is that it tells the story of an American hero who didn’t punch his way across Europe or rescue his daughter from terrorists. James Donovan saved lives and did so in ways that left both sides of the world happy. His reluctance to simply let a foreign spy die made him a bad guy in the short term but as history had progressed he has become known as a great man. In the hands of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks Donovan’s story is beautifully done.

Hanks Spielberg Bride of Spies

Yep. We’re pretty great.

Bridge of Spies forgoes the standard courtroom structure and instead focuses on James Donovan’s (Tom Hanks) journey from family man lawyer to negotiating hostage swaps in Berlin. He was at the Nuremberg trials after Word War II and is tired of being around evil and carnage. He wants to be home in New York and listen to his precocious kids talk about surviving a nuclear war with Russia. What I like most about Donovan is that he has an edge to him. He has no problem drinking day time scotch and if you piss him off you will see his fists clench. He is not a push over and when push comes to shove you better watch out because he would be a terror in a bar fight.

One fateful day he is appointed to be the lawyer for a Soviet spy named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) He is a calm painter/spy who refuses to give up information and seems destined to be executed. However, being that Donovan is a good man he defends his client admirably and ends up saving his life. This comes in handy when two Americans are captured in Berlin and Donovan is sent to negotiate a trade. The significance of this event opened doors and was a major step forward for war time relations.

Berlin Spies

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What makes Bridge of Spies exciting is the fantastic acting, directing and script written by Matt Charman, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. It will have you on the edge of your seat then laughing out loud. The emotions are real because Spielberg’s direction makes you care about the characters. The actors disappear into their roles and what we get are real people engaging in very real stakes. You can feel the Coen’s presence as there are some odd character moments strewn throughout the film. My favorite scene involves Donovan negotiating with a DDR secretary (Burghart Klaussner) who turns out to be a high ranking official with the KGB. It is a all a cordial ruse that is very much a chess match between two smart men and a fake family (you will love it).

In any other directors hands I could this see this coming across as stale or melodramatic. Spielberg manages to make you feel and the feels while keeping the material fresh. When watching Bridge of Spies you feel like everyone is at the top of their game. Every frame is immaculate and the amount of detail and throw away jokes are endless. Bridge of Spies respects its audience and in return offers one of the best character studies I’ve seen in years. Spielberg is a master of capturing human emotion and when you look back at his filmography he has found the best in humanity. In a recent meeting with the press Spielberg talked about putting heroes on screen.

To me, a hero is a hero. I like making pictures about people who have a personal mission in life…who start out with certain low expectations and then overachieve our highest expectations for them — that’s the kind of character arc I love dabbling in as a director.

Bridge of Spies is a fantastic film and I 100% recommend you check it out. I really hope it is remembered come award time.

Bridge of Spies hanks

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