Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bridge of Spies Movie Review

"Bridge of Spies" movie review, starring Tom Hanks. The movie is suspenseful, historically significant, a thriller that held my attention all the way through. Here are my top 3 impressions.
My husband and I went to the movies last weekend to see "Bridge of Spies." We don't go out to see movies very often, but this one attracted both of us, my husband because of the Cold War era setting (1957-1962), me because of the spy story. Other than knowing that the movie was inspired by actual events and that Tom Hanks was the star, I knew very little about it. I learned a lot during the 142 minutes we watched and that's what I want to talk about in this review.

There were a number of young people in the audience and by "young people" I mean teenage boys (Saturday night, $3 movie). There were a few old mature baby boomer-era folks like us, but most members of the audience were too young to remember first-hand much about the Cold War. As I watched and the story unfolded, I found myself wondering how much of this history the audience had ever read about, learned about in school, or knew about at all, and how they felt about the movie, the story, the characters, the historical significance, as the story was revealed.

"Bridge of Spies" tells the real-life story that centers around attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks) and his role in defending accused (and widely presumed guilty) Russian spy Rudolf Abel, as well as Donovan's role as civilian negotiator, recruited by the CIA and tasked with securing the release of captured American U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers. Those two events become entwined in a tale of patriotism, duty, character, and the sanctity of the United States Constitution, the likes of which was impressive, to say the least.

It's hard to talk about the movie without giving away much of the story, so I'll focus on three impressions that I took from the film and try to avoid spoilers.

Berlin Wall, eastgerman border guard looks at the Kubat-Dreieck, July 1st 1988
Berlin Wall, East German border guard
looks at the 
Kubat-Dreieck, July 1st 1988
First was the representation of the city of Berlin, where construction of the infamous wall dividing East from West was being completed as Donovan arrived to negotiate Powers' release. Today many of us remember that wall in its later life, graffiti covered and coming down in pieces following the urging of President Ronald Reagan. The movie gave a taste of how horrifying life actually was on the east side of that wall for the honest-to-goodness human beings who lived, and tried to escape from, there. As I watched the movie, that part of history really came alive to me and affected me as no history textbook ever did.  

My second impression is that, while there were humorous moments, there was a little more laughter in the theater than I thought appropriate. That brings me back to the audience. I almost wish I could have done a quick exit interview with some of the movie-watchers to ask how they liked the movie and what about it impressed them the most. I really hope some of the young people in the audience will remember the film as they study the post-World War II period in history class. I wish I would have appreciated my world history class more, 'way back when I was in high school, still in the midst of the Cold War years.

Third, and perhaps the impression that is most important to me, was the character of James Donovan. This was a man who stuck with his principles unwaveringly, going above and beyond, doing the right thing not only when his own reputation as well as his patriotism were questioned by friends, neighbors, and coworkers, but also when his wife's and children's very lives were threatened. I'm not sure what drove James Donovan, but how impactful his actions must have been to his children and even to his neighbors once his task involving Gary Powers was revealed!

I recently read a movie review by friend and fellow reviewer Cynthia in which she gave the movie a low rating in large part because the writers strayed so far off the real-life incident on which that particular movie was based. That got me thinking and wondering how accurate "Bridge of Spies" is, in relation, especially, to the portrayal of James Donovan. So I went looking and quickly found this article from Forbes which confirmed that screenwriter Matt Charman felt "just how important it was to tell this story right and do justice to everyone involved." He also confirms in his interview, regarding the Donovan family at the movie premiere, "... their reaction was the most wonderful review you could ever get and I feel proud we put the real man up there." I was very happy to read those words.

The movie is suspenseful, historically significant, a thriller that held my attention all the way through. Based on my impressions from watching the movie and what I have since read about the real events, I give this movie 9 stars out of 10 and highly recommend it for families including children over age 13 (based on the intensity of the subject).

"Bridge of Spies" stars Tom Hanks, directed by Steven Spielberg. Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actor, Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel. Release date: October 16, 2015. DVD release date February 2, 2016.

Enjoy this trailer:



LINKS:
Recommended Reading: Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers by James Donovan (#1 NYT Bestseller)

Buy or Rent "Bridge of Spies" from:
Family Video
Walmart
Amazon

Photo Attribution: Berlin Wall Photo CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

~Susan
Meet the Reviewer




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

17 comments:

  1. As much as my family loves history, I honestly cannot believe that this movie has not been at the top of our viewing list. I do believe my parents went to see it during the holidays, or just after Christmas, and raved over it. But, somehow, my immediate household has missed out. After reading your review, I know we absolutely must see the movie! Even before I started writing my comment here, I checked to see if the movie is still playing at our local theater and it is. That thrills my soul that we have not missed our opportunity to see it on the big screen. I'm going to see if I can get my guys to take me this weekend. Thank you Susan for this excellent review and recommendation. I now have a fabulous movie to look forward to seeing. (and yes, accurate history is most important to me.)

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    1. I'll be anxious to hear your take on the movie, Cynthia. I wouldn't mind seeing it a second time, really. Glad you'll be able to see it on the big screen, too. Appreciate your very kind comment!

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  2. I haven't seen this movie yet, and now after reading your review I can't wait to see it. I love anything to do with history and where true heroes are born. Thanks for your amazing and personal review.

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    1. Thanks for those very kind words, Sam, and do let me know how you liked it once you've seen it!

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  3. Susan My husband and I saw this movie soon after it came out this fall. We loved it. We remembered so much of the story and the events of the time and the film really brought it to life. We saw the movie on a Wednesday afternoon (Senior Citizen time at our theater) so the movie was packed with people who lived through the time period.

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    1. Mary Beth, I think people from our age group probably appreciated it most. Glad to know you and your husband enjoyed it - and got the senior discount! :) Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I think what I loved most about this movie was James Donovan's refusal to leave the young student behind. Donovan, as the "Standing Man," stood alone for the value of human life, integrity, and being true to what our country represents (at its best).

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    1. Very well stated, Diana. That was an awesome piece of this movie puzzle. I loved knowing that that part really was true. It sealed the deal between me and James Donovan's character. Happy that you enjoyed the movie!

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  5. Wonderful review, Susan. This movie is now on my 'Must See' list. I also lived through that era in history and will be able to relate to the time period. History was my minor in college, so that's another reason to be interested.

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    1. Then you really should enjoy the movie, Elf. I hope you do. I'd love it if you come back and let me know. Thanks!

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  6. Well thanks to this terrific review Susan, and all the comments, it's official, am going to watch this one! My husband and I were just talking about this one last night. Can't wait to see it

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    1. Can't wait to hear how you like it, Barbara! Thanks!

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  7. Excellent review! I know my husband would love this. I'm not sure I can handle seeing it, since I usually can't watch a suspenseful thriller where people might be killed. We just may have to get it on DVD so we can watch it at home and I can leave the room if it becomes too much for me.

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    1. Barbara, I think you'd be okay with this one. I'm the same way with war topics and always skip those movies. Of course this is available for rental now, so watching it at home certainly is an option.

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  8. Excellent review! I know my husband would love this. I'm not sure I can handle seeing it, since I usually can't watch a suspenseful thriller where people might be killed. We just may have to get it on DVD so we can watch it at home and I can leave the room if it becomes too much for me.

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  9. Interesting, Susan. Bridge of Spies is on our list but it may be awhile before we see it. Thanks for your thoughts.

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    1. I'd love to hear my favorite movie reviewer's take on the movie, Brenda!

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