Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bridge of Spies

Plot: In 1957, Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is put on trial in New York, and Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks) becomes his defense attorney. 1950's America hates and fears the Russians, and Donovan encounters bias legal rulings. Abel is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Meantime Francis Gary Power's is captured when his U-2 spy plane is shut down over Russia. Donovan does a back-channel negotiation to trade Powers and Abel. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Bridge of Spies is a simple story told as a metaphor for civil liberties shrinking in post 911 America. In America the main story was about hatred and persecution, and in Europe the story was about the oppressive power of government. The message is that the difference is respect for the law. 

Tom Hanks kept the slow-moving story interesting with his clever expressions and readings. He does a good job with the old-time phrases. 

Mark Rylance who plays Abel is a blank cypher -- not interesting at all. Donovan's wife was played by Amy Ryan, and while she had a small part, she has one knock-em-dead facial expression at the very end that I loved. 

There is a lot of German dialog, and while some it was fast; the vocabulary was simple enough for me to understand most of it. 

Despite the high powered cast, it is a simple moral fable, it is well-told, but beyond the fairly simple political message, there isn't much there. It is a good movie to start a conversation.

Don't go to see Bridge of Spies thinking it is a new James Bond or Mission Impossible. One of my main disappointments with Bridge of Spies is that it is not the movie the trailer makes it seem to be. It isn't cool to be a spy in the real world.  Abel is one of the least cool people.

After all is done, I am left admiring James Donovan and his adherence to American values. It strikes me that in the battle against radicalism, Americanism is a good weapon. 

Cast: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance

Directed by: Steven Spielberg; Written by the Coens. 

The Music: The music is very spare. Mostly silent.

The Visuals: Mostly dialog. One excellent scene is when Power is shot down, and he is dangling from the plane as it falls. The other great visual is when the escaping East Berliners are shot trying to climb wall. All the 50's era stuff is interesting in a Mad Men way. 

Rating: 3.0 stars: It's a standard 2.5 star movie with an extra half star for the political message. 

More: Here are photos:

Donovan with President Kennedy

Rudolf Abel

Even More: Here is a story about the Donovan's from their home town paper in Lake Placid.

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