Bridge Of Spies
It is undeniable that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest American storytellers ever. For many may associate him with science fiction and fantasy some of his most powerful works have been historical in nature. With such masterpieces as ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Mr. Spielberg is utilized cinema as a means to preserve certain critically important junctures in history. It doesn’t concentrate so much on the broad picture for the effects on the global stage but rather is historical movies concentrate psychological and emotional trauma of the people at the heart of events that had a profound global effect. Latest film of his the fourth of category of historical masterpieces is ‘Bridge Of Spies ‘. For those of us who share the baby-boom affiliation with Mr. Spielberg may have been marginally a rare new story that resulted in much concerned with the adults. In 1960 the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States of America stood on the precipice of heating up. With Dwight Eisenhower in the White House and Nikita Khrushchev in control of the Kremlin not only did to most powerful men in the world because of the overwhelming nuclear arsenal they had the potential to being the most dangerous. In May 1968 a U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), was shot down over Soviet airspace. The latent espionage easily led to open warfare which during that time would mean only one thing, and exchange of nuclear weapons. The fact that such an action would inevitably lead to global annihilation. Thankfully, there were, has on both sides still the men wielding the most power tended to put their faith in a military solution. Once again Mr. Spielberg takes a major historical incident and goes down to presented in microcosm by making the point of view character the man charged with responsibility of negotiating the freedom of Captain Powers. Negotiating for a man’s life is in itself a heavy responsibility that would break many men when you add to that indisputable fact that failure potentially lead to the end of the world and that is such an inordinate pressure that no man has ever been asked to endure.
The story opens three years prior to the capture of the aircraft were in Brooklyn Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) was arrested on charges of being a Soviet espionage agent. Since even Russian spies are to be afforded legal representation the government approaches the senior partner of a prestigious law firm, Thomas Watters Jr. (Alan Alda). In turn he hands the case over to another partner, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), whose legal specialty is insurance settlements. Officially that may seem to be sending a lawyer with little experience in such high profile litigation into a case that would inevitably be a global news item. As it turns out Mr. Donovan is a man who as a lawyer is uniquely qualified such a high profile case. After World War II he was the lead prosecutor for the OSS at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Everyone involved has the full expectations that Donovan would provide a defense that would just barely meet the requirement of legal representation. No one counted on was that Mr. Donovan held himself off to the highest professional standards a lawyer can attain to do his very best on behalf of his client. The reaction by the as well as anyone involved in the trial was shock resulting in the pent up anger and frustration felt by most people during this time hatefully targeting Donovan. He is inundated with hate mail seen as a pariah by most of America. The evidence did to be on the shuttle without that Abel was guilty and in fact a deep cover Soviet spy. During the sentencing consideration Donovan successfully convinced the charge to commute the death sentenced to 30 years in prison. A major part of his argument is that Abel may have some strategic value at some point in the future.
A situation in which Abel could prove to be a valuable bargaining chip was not long in coming. While the fate of Rudolf Abel still under appeal and deliberation incident on the other side of the world would change everything. Captain Gary Francis Powers left the Air Force in order to fly spy missions with the CIA. This function was to fly espionage missions using the Lockheed U-2 over high-altitude jet to take photographs deep within the Soviet airspace. The aircraft was a marvel of technology for the time able to fly over twice the height of regular jet planes and on the most sophisticated cameras and other surveillance equipment available. Plane piloted by Powers was shot down and Captain Powers taken into custody by the Soviet authorities. Under the guise of sending able a letter from his family Donovan receives a ‘backhanded’ message from the Soviets. They propose a prisoner exchange; Powers for Able. The complication was about to occur when American grad student, Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), was attempting to smuggle his girlfriend out of East Berlin. Tensions were already extremely high at that time as the city was being literally divided by the building of the Berlin wall. Donovan wants to change the deal to a two for one paper in the American State Department adamantly against it afraid that it might result in exchange freeing powers fall apart. Ultimately Donovan is allowed to proceed on the privies of that nothing is done on behalf of the student that could adversely affect any deal for Powers.
Undeniably the team of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks is an unstoppable award season drug. With such an incredibly talented and versatile act as Mr. Hanks it might come as a surprise to some with this film turns out to showcase the talents of Rudolf Abel. Known predominantly for his work in television and several motion pictures, he brings it energy to the part that is mesmerizing he allows the audience to believe that Abel was a man who felt he was a patriot for his own country now finds himself as he easily sacrificed on the chess game between two superpowers. Mr. Hanks is ideal for the strong-willed and idealistic Donovan. He portrays the lawyer as a man who places his integrity and professional ethics fall above the jingoistic pressure he encounters from all sides. Spielberg is able to entice amazing performances all involved but at the heart of each scene is the core of unvarnished humanity that leaves the viewer or the intensity of the emotion portrayed. Once again we have the film that delves deep into well-known historical events that uncovers the human issues at its center. Spielberg is a genius filmmaker with the commando every technical aspect of craft which enables him to bring his artistic vision to life on film. Surpassing all else is his ability as a storyteller, an artist able to draw the viewers into the very heart of the characters. You can read the facts of this incident and any number of online sources or history books but would Steven Spielberg brings to the story is having noblest of men can arise out of such an insane concept as the Cold War.