Any movie viewer worth their salt already knows about the cinematic masterpieces Steven Spielberg has made, and that Tom Hanks is one of the best actors out there. So what happens when these two forces come together with the Coen Brothers and Matt Charman writing a historical drama inspired by true events? You get a well done film called Bridge of Spies that showcases all of their talents in one of the best films of the year.
The film focuses on the height of the Cold War in the late 1950’s when a New York lawyer named James Donovan (played masterfully by Tom Hanks) is called to represent a captured Russian spy named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in a court of law as to show he’s being treated fairly in the eyes of the world. Of course that’s anything but the case as everyone from the public, to the jury and judge already find him guilty and want him executed, making Donovan’s job (and life) that much more difficult.
After using his well-honed skills to talk the court out of killing Abel and instead to keep him locked up as a bargaining chip with Russia for future woes, it isn’t long when an American spy pilot named Francis Gary Powers is captured by Russia and it’s once again on Donovan to set up an exchange of the the prisoners. Things become complicated when a young American studying over in Germany is also captured and Donovan takes it upon himself to work out a deal between the Germans and Russia to free both Americans for Abel, which in turns creates a lot of tension and drama.
Having made classics such as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg is no stranger to the tragedies of war and the effects it has on others. This movie practically had his name written on it for him to make, as his father was there in Russia when the American spy plane went down and has wanted to make a film about this for quite some time. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Coen Brothers helped with the script to take some liberties in order to spice up the drama and tension. Having Spielberg film in some of the actual locations where the events took place was also an added bonus, as you can truly see and feel the war-torn era as you watch. It was a little sad that John Williams wasn’t able to score this movie (the first since Spielberg’s The Color Purple), but Thomas Newman does an excellent job in his own right.
I really enjoyed watching this on Blu-ray, as the high definition visuals and audio capture everything perfectly. Thanks to the extra space of the medium, Spielberg has added a set of extras in the form of documentaries that viewers are sure to be intrigued by. The biggest highlight of them is “A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies,” which goes into how Spielberg and the writers made the film come alive. “Berlin 1961: Re-creating the Divide” shows how the crew was able to recreate East and West Berlin with painstaking detail, while “U-2 Spy Plane” goes into Powers and his flight over Russia, with Powers’ son acting as a consultant. Lastly there’s “Spy Swap: Looking Back on the Final Act” that goes into filming the exchange on the famous Glienicke Bridge that also features a visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
I already knew going in that Bridge of Spies was going to be a great film, but I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. It burns a little slow, but the flawless acting, drama, and tension will keep viewers glued to their seats. Couple this with some equally impressive special features, and you have a near perfect film you’ll want to spy on as soon as possible.