Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Bridge of Spies

Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD, Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by the Coen brothers, is set in 1957 at the height of the Cold War, and is inspired by true events. It tells the fascinating story of James Donovan, an insurance lawyer from New York who finds himself representing an accused Soviet spy in an American court. Donovan then has to assist the CIA negotiate the exchange of Rudolf Abel, the Soviet spy, and Francis Gary Powers, an American spy pilot who had recently been captured.


The film starts with a very sublime introduction as we’re first introduced to Rudolf Abel, played by Mark Rylance. Despite his character being from the opposition, it’s hard not to like him as he frequently delivers some of the best lines in the film. Abel is clearly complex, and so easily drawn to. Rylance actually won an Oscar for ‘best performance by an actor in a supporting role’ for his portrayal of Abel, and it was well-deserved. Similarly, Tom Hanks plays a very believable James Donovan, who is extremely knowledge in his subject and has a certain way with words that makes him a very good lawyer. When the two finally meet, the film starts to explore certain moral issues that make for interesting viewing.


I found myself questioning both myself and society as a whole while watching Bridge of Spies. Donovan struggles with the opposing views of his family, the court, and the rest of society, who can’t get to grips with him wanting to give Abel a fair trial. It made me think a lot about how society treats the opposition, and definitely put some things into perspective. It was particularly view-changing about the concept of war, and made me think more carefully about what war actually is.

Even aside from the strong moral questioning presented throughout, Bridge of Spies is actually a really engaged thriller. The filming is beautiful, and the costumes and the set are all believable. Some scenes wouldn’t have looked out of place in a film noir piece. One thing I really loved was the way the scenes move so fluidly into one another – there’s a lot of focus on the juxtaposition of societies and beliefs, and it was done extremely well through thoughtful editing.

Unfortunately I felt that the second half of the film went on for just a bit too long – the pace had been very quick for the first half, and then it suddenly slowed right down. We go from quite an intense series of events within a short space of time to suddenly dwelling on the comparisons between East and West Germany. Although this was important for the film, it felt just a little bit like Spielberg was using it as a sort of filler until we got to the actual prisoner exchange. Lots of more interesting bits (such as Powers’ time spent in a Soviet prison) were glossed over in favour of less interesting scenes, which made me feel like the story was missing something.


Thankfully, the final scene was still climatic, and it rounded up what was ultimately a really good viewing experience. It shed some light on a truly inspirational story from the Cold War (which many may not have even heard of), and managed to show just how thin and fragile morality actually is.

The story was complicated but still easy to follow, and so I’m giving it 4/5.

★★★★☆

Hannah Read


Bridge of Spies at CeX


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