Bridge of Spies kind of flew under the radar when it was released in October of last year, maybe perceived as more of a mature, calculated, political film that simply got lost in the shuffle.
That’s a shame, too, because it features a terrifically talented cast and crew, and an intriguing story that makes you want to learn more when the credits roll.
You have Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair, Tom Hanks in the starring role, and Matt Charman (with the help of Joel and Ethan Coen) as screenwriter. That’s a who’s-who of talent, amounting to one of the more entertaining, if understated, historical dramas in recent years.
The film follows James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), a lawyer who is given the unenviable task of defending Rudolf Abel, a KGB spy. Donovan receives scorn and ridicule for taking on the case, but he remains steadfast in his convictions for a fair and just trial—and it’s these characteristics that drive the film, and eventually lead to one of the more impressive political coups in U.S. history.
Abel is convicted, but rather than getting the death penalty, Donovan is able to negotiate a long sentence, saying Abel might come in handy should the U.S. ever need him as a bargaining chip. And wouldn’t you know it, the prescient Donovan winds up being right.
Following his defense of Abel, U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers is shot down over the Soviet Union, leading to his capture. Meanwhile, Frederic Pryor, an American graduate student, attempts to bring his German girlfriend from East Berlin to West Berlin, and is arrested as a spy. That’s when Donovan steps in to negotiate a trade.
I won’t spoil what happens, because you really should give Bridge of Spies a watch, but suffice it to say the film is a wonderfully crafted tale that’s as entertaining as it is educational. Spielberg has always been a master at creating tension, but he’s more reserved in Bridge of Spies (in a good way!), giving the film a beautiful atmosphere and among a difficult historical backdrop.
What’s especially great about the movie is how it manages to capture the look and feel of the Cold War. Adding to that is the fact that filming took place in some of the real-life locations, which adds to the authenticity.
In addition to the movie itself, the Blu-ray release comes with a smattering of extras that further shed light on the events that transpired, and how Donovan was able to negotiate a swap amid rising political tensions and the threat of nuclear war. If you’re going to watch Bridge of Spies, do yourself a favor and don’t skip the bonus features, as they’re just as entertaining and educational as the movie itself.
Bridge of Spies is available beginning today on Blu-ray and Digital HD