Bridge of Spies

Political Intriguing but Not Enthralling

Films are not just a product; a specific piece of art created at a specific point in time, they also have the ability to tell us something about the era in which they were made. If this statement is considered debatable then Bridge of Spies is a pretty convincing argument for it being true.

To put this into context let me detail the film’s plot.

It’s the height of the cold war. The American public are bombarded with propaganda; communism is attacking the American way of life and the enemy is already inside, hiding in plain sight. This fear is proven as a reality as Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Russian spy, is captured.

Here we are in 2015 being bombarded by propaganda about the dangers of ISIS and how Islam is threatening our way of life. The enemy is already here with local sympathisers carrying out attacks in the name of ISIS so we should all feel scared right!?

James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is an insurance lawyer who is approached by the government officials asking him to represent Abel as a semi-reputable lawyer. The trial is meant to be an open and shut case, a tick in the box as a symbol of democracy if nothing else. Donovan is the voice of reason in the midst of war fever doing his best to play by the rules that make his nation great. Even when that fails he pushes for the death sentence to be avoided.

Today the government are all to ready to sidestep the values that they claim to believe in the pursuit of war and profiteering. You only need to look at David Cameron claiming that Russia bombing Syria would radicalise more people, only to feverishly argue for bombing Syria a month or so later, to know that ideology is easily wavered in such times.

Donovan’s foresight pays off as an American spy is captured in Russia. A like for like trade is proposed but of course the US and Russian governments cannot be seen to be working together because co-operation would be terrible right? In order to negotiate the trade Donovan has to travel to a Berlin where a large wall is segregating the populace.

A wall? Isn’t that the main policy of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign?

There is more to Bridge of Spies than just a social commentary on history repeating itself. The acting is excellent from start to finish. Normally I find Hanks pretty dull but actually I found him quite captivating and dynamic in Bridge of Spies.

It’s Mark Rylance who steals the show even though his role is a supporting one. The Russian spy gives a sum total of zero fucks to all the commotion going on around him so it’s hard not to like him. It’s not like he is arrogant or cocky, at some point Abel accepted that he will likely be caught and face an uncomfortable final chair so he is totally un-fazed when it comes true.

Would it help if the scripting was also very good? It would. In fact, it did. The Coens and Matthew Charman providing just enough variation of dialogue – an occasional laugh here and the odd swear word there – keeps your interest all through the film.

Unfortunately the word ‘interesting’ is the most apt descriptor for Bridge of Spies. It is undoubtedly a fascinating true story but it’s not riveting. I think what it all boils down to is that it feels like Spielberg being Spielberg which is a little too safe. Too much of a known quantity.

I’m glad I saw Bridge of Spies because it’s certainly well crafted, especially when juxatposed with the events that are happening in middle east right now, but it’s not something I would go out of my way to watch again. If you can’t relate to Donovan as a character then there is precious little else to go on so this cold war drama won’t be everyone’s warm cup of tea.

Go See

  • Social commentary
  • Well written
  • Well acted


  • Interesting but not hugely entertaining
  • Limited replay factor
  • A safe Spielberg film




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