Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

The last Cold War movie I saw was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a snoozefest that I rated 1.5 out of 5 stars back in January 2012. The story in Bridge of Spies was much easier to follow and also more compelling, and it's based on a true story, too; one that I knew little about before seeing the movie, which made it even more interesting to me.

James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is a lawyer based in Brooklyn, who lives with his wife and three children. He's assigned the case of Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet spy who was found in the U.S., presumably trying to get information. The judge and jury have all but convicted Abel before he even sees the inside of a courtroom, but they need to put up the pretense of a "fair trial" for him, so Donovan gets the case, presumably pro-bono. Abel is, of course, convicted, although the judge does give some leniency and sentences him to 30 years in prison (vs. the electric chair).

Later, the Soviets and the U.S. decide to make a deal: an American pilot in exchange for Abel. The government can't actually be seen getting its hands dirty, so they send Donovan to East Berlin, where the negotiation will be taking place; the only catch is that the Soviets also have an American student, and Donovan wants a 2 for 1 deal - Abel in exchange for both American men - which isn't the U.S. government's opinion, as they don't care as much about the student. Donovan also has to navigate East Berlin, post-Berlin wall, and the dangers it contains within.

I'll admit that the first half of this movie was rather slow; interesting, but slow. It sets up the groundwork for the rest of the movie, a little more fast-paced in general, which was good; there's even a few "action"-type scenes in it. Hanks was very good in his role, as was Mark Rylance, who played Abel (the Russian spy), and the rest of the U.S. government/lawyer crew: Alan Alda, Peter McRobbie as the judge, and Billy Magnussen. Austin Stowell was also good in his part, as the captured American pilot.

Yes, see this movie, but note that it has some language - I'm surprised it's PG-13 and not R-rated, actually because they use the F-word twice (usually PG-13's can only get away with saying it once). At the same time if it was R-rated, I'd be surprised at that too, because it's a Disney/Dreamworks film, and those are usually G/PG or PG-13. There was a live Q&A after my screening with Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who directed the film, and it was interesting, although I could only stay for about 15 minutes (had a long ride home). I'd recommend this film for anyone who is a fan of historical films, or "quiet drama" movies (drama, but not as action-based); fans of Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg movies will enjoy this film, as well.

Bridge of Spies is in theaters today, October 16th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 135 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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