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All you care about is finding a movie you’ll enjoy. It’s amazing how many really wonderful movies go under the radar screen. Maybe they got crowded out by other movies that opened on the same weekend. Maybe the reviews were unfairly negative. Whatever the reason… there’s treasure to be found among the many DVDs out there.
Bridge of Spies (2015)
Cast includes: Mark Rylance (The Other Boleyn Girl), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Alan Alda (M*A*S*H), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Writers: Matt Charman (Suite Francaise), Ethan Coen (Fargo), Joel Coen (True Grit)
Director: Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan)
Genre: Drama | History (141 minutes)
In 1957, Rudolf Able was a Sunday painter. In his Brooklyn apartment, he’s painting when the phone rings. Not a word is spoken, but when Able hangs up, he leaves with his folding easel and art supplies. He heads for the subway. At Broad Street, he gets off. “WALK DO NOT RUN” Able calmly follows the rules, even as there are men running through the station looking for someone, “Excuse me,” Able says as he passes one of them on the steps. After painting all afternoon, Able gets ready to pack up. Reaching under a ledge… he finds a small disk and puts it in his pocket. The disk turns out to be a nickel… or at least it looks like a nickel. With a straight razor, he separates the top from the bottom, finding a folded paper with tiny lines of code. That’s when men bang on the door. They’ve come to arrest him… Able just wants to fetch his teeth and clean his brushes.
“He’s not my guy,” says James Donovan as he negotiates a claim against a client who’s insured by his client. Back at the office, Donovan finds his 9AM has been cancelled because there are urgent matters. “The Soviet spy they caught… they want you to defend him,” says Donovan’s partner. Even a Soviet spy deserves an adequate defense, and the men from the government want Donovan because… although he’s supposed to lose… he’s a credible lawyer. Without a credible lawyer, it would be bad PR. Taking the case makes Donovan the 2nd most hated man in America… right after Rudolf Able. In there initial meeting, Able asks for “materials to draw with,” but it’s not allowed. “There may be men serving your country who are in a similar predicament. I’m sure you’d want them treated fairly.” In the meantime, a pilot named Gary Powers has been selected to the elite team of “drivers” to fly top-secret intelligence-gathering missions over the USSR. The U2 flies at 70,000 feet… too high for detection. So being shot down is not supposed to happen. And even if the U2 is shot down, the pilot isn’t supposed to survive.
Powers does get shot down, and he does survive. He’s captured by the Soviets… one of our biggest blunders of the Cold War era. By this time Able has been convicted, but Donovan uses his influence to get him sentenced to prison… not death. “Why aren’t we hanging him?!!!” That’s when our government calls on Donovan again. There’s a possibility that the Soviets will consider a spy trade… “They want their man back before he cracks. We want Powers back for the same reason.” The US wants Donovan to go to East Berlin and negotiate an exchange… and not get sidetracked by the Yale student who stupidly got captured when The Wall was being constructed. “Gary Powers is your guy.”
Bridge of Spies is a stellar example of Cold War drama… great cast and excellent production… it’s a Spielberg movie, after all. Based on actual events, the film keeps us absorbed, even though we know how it ends. We see plenty of period dramas with good production values… but one aspect that sets this one apart is the excellent script with excellent plot development and many classic, quotable Coen brothers’ lines. With all the twists and turns, our man in Berlin keeps his cool. Maybe he’s remembering what Rudolf Able always says about worrying… “Would it make a difference?”
4 popped kernels
During the height of the Cold War a civilian lawyer negotiates a complicated exchange of spies with the Soviet Union
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: Cold War tension
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Entertaining & Informative