Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is a well made and entertaining political drama. The film bears certain hallmarks of director Spielberg, most apparent in the tone of the picture.
During the Cold War, James Donovan, an American insurance lawyer, is recruited to defend an alleged Soviet spy. Reluctant to take the case at first, Donovan must pursue justice, despite the odds being stacked against his client…
As Bridge of Spies begins, it appears that the focus will be on the lawyer James Donovan fighting the case for a prisoner accused of espionage. Yet this initial premise is wrapped up fairly early on in the film, leaving a more interesting, and more tense, story to be told. The initial set up works well to build the protagonist and introduce the audience to the environment of the late 1950s setting. It is the narrative that builds on this, however, which will engage viewers.
Director Spielberg and writers Mark Charman and Ethan and Joel Coen humanise Cold War espionage with Bridge of Spies. Dealing with the actions and fates of a handful of characters, rather than concentrating on the wider picture, allows Spielberg to illustrate the characters behind the politics. The film features a level of schmaltz that those familiar with the director’s multiple films with quickly recognise. Nevertheless, Bridge of Spies is well scripted and well crafted, creating an engaging picture.
James Donovan is an interesting protagonist inasmuch as his flair for his job is depicted. Adept at arguing his case, the emphasis is on the character successfully doing his job; the family simply make the protagonist more well-rounded. Drama is infused with flecks of comedy, particularly a sequence that takes place in East Germany. The conclusion of Bridge of Spies has the necessary tension. This sequence has been building for some time, and does not disappoint. Tom Hanks’ charisma seems most fitting for the role of Donovan. Mark Rylance offers a strong performance as Rudolf Abel.
Bridge of Spies is Cold War drama on a small and personal scale. As such, the film offers a different angle on the political period.