Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies
A view from the Bridge
Those of us who came of age during the 1960s are at least passingly familiar with the story of Francis Gary Powers, the American U2 spy pilot who was shot down over Russia, and was held for 21 months before being exchanged on February 10, 1962 in Berlin for a Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel, on Glienicke Bridge. This then is the backdrop to the Spielberg film-produced film, as we don’t actually follow Powers (Stowell) here, but lawyer James B. Donovan (Hanks) who works for a prestigious law firm who is called upon to defend accused Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Rylance) who was apprehended in 1957.
Bridge of Spys: Trailer
Welcome to the Cold War
As you can probably understand, defending a soviet spy during the height of the cold war was something of an unenviable task in many respects. As the story goes, Donovan was a prosecutor at the Nuremburg trials after World War II, but at the time he was tapped for Abel’s defense, he hadn't practiced criminal law in some time. Needless to say, the strong anti-Communist mood at the time made Donovan a target from who thought that Abel should be given a fair trial and then shot in the morning. Surprising no one, Abel is convicted but, much to his credit and skill as a litigator, Donovan manages to convince the judge to sentence Abel to serve a term in prison, rather than execute him.
Bring in the Lawyers
Donovan’s reasoning for incarcerating rather than killing Abel was that the U.S. might — at some point in the future — need Abel alive in order to swap him for a captured American spy the Soviets might have in custody. Well, as we already know, just such a scenario occurred in 1960 when Powers was shot down over Soviet territory and taken prisoner. Donovan was again recruited but this time to act as the intermediary in order to negotiate swapping Able for the Powers requiring Donovan to travel to East Berlin crossing the newly built Berlin Wall. What the film also includes is the lesser-known part of the story, where Donovan also managed to acquire the release of American student Frederic Pryor (Rogers), who found himself on the wrong side of the newly-built wall.
Bridge of Spies BD + DVD + Digital [Blu-ray]
The film delivers stand-out performances by not only Hanks, Rylance, Stowell, and Rogers but Alan Alda (who plays Donovan’s boss), as well as the rest of the cast, all of whom help reintroduce us to this historically powerful incident. As stated at the onset of this review, we acknowledged being aware of the broad strokes of this episode in America’s past (as we lived through it), but there were quite a number of things that we simply were not aware of (including the role that Pryor played in the exchange, or even Donovan’s role in all of the proceedings.
Bridge of Spies Paperback
Welcome to the Past
The film is a fine recreation of the events surround the U-2 Incident (oh and for you youngsters in the crowd, this is where Bono and the boys got the name of their musical group). Placing the events leading up to, the downing of the aircraft and the ultimate swap (including giving post-script text at the film’s conclusion as to what happened to the major players after the swap). This a very well-made, human-driven, that — unlike the current crop of superheroes, shoot-‘em-ups, and horror films meant to “entertain” us, this film brings with it a slice of actual history, proving that there are still actual human -driven stories that are well worth being told on the big screen. We highly recommend catching it when you can. Based on the eponymous book by Giles Whittell is well worth catching. Bridge of Spys