I don’t think it’s any secret that there was some bad blood between the United States and Russia in the 1950’s. I’m a little upset that I started this review off with a “captain obvious” moment and a Taylor Swift reference. Ok, let’s get passed that nonsense and on to the review.
The story opens in Brooklyn, N.Y. during the late 1950s with the arrest by American authorities of suspected Soviet agent Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Due to the circumstances, the United States government wants to ensure that Abel is getting an appropriate defense so, they approach attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks) to defend Abel. Donovan is an insurance attorney and his reaction at first is that he doesn’t want to take on something like this. He knows the attention this trial is going to get and doesn’t want to be connected to Abel as the man that was defending him. He soon warms up to the idea and the ride begins.
After the evidence was reviewed and the trial was done, the verdict for Abel came back as guilty, but based on Donovan’s arguments, the punishment was 30 years in prison and not the death penalty. The country was outraged because a Russian spy was being allowed to keep his life even after being found guilty. Donovan’s reasoning was very smart and very valid – if Abel was put to death, the United States would have no leverage of one of their own happened to be captured in Russia. The decision puts a lot of stress on Donovan and his family as threats are made (and some even carried through). Well, wouldn’t you know it, a plane on a United States spy mission was shot down over Russia and a soldier was captured.
Now, the next request of Donovan from the United States government is to successfully negotiate a prisoner trade with Russia. Understandably, both sides are concerned about what their guy will divulge to the other side. Obviously government secrets are even more important during a war. The exchange becomes even more complicated when Donovan gets greedy during negotiations. That is as deep into the story as I will take you – you are intrigued and I know it.
Bridge of Spies is based on true events and you all know that those are some of the most interesting films for me. Tom Hanks does a tremendous job (as he does much of the time). The film does a great job keeping you off-guard just enough to keep everything interesting. I loved every moment of the film and it was worth every moment of the 2 hour 21 minute run time. If you are a fan of history, true events, Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg or just great movies in general, you will want to check out Bridge of Spies this weekend.