Bridge of Spies

Bridge-of-Spies-ReviewDirected by …. Steven Spielberg
Written by … Matt Charman, Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Music by … Thomas Newman
Cinematography by … Janusz Kaminski

Runtime 142 min Color With some Black and White archive footage
Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1
Camera Arricam LT,Arriflex 235 and Arriflex 435 Hawk V-Lite, V-Lite Vintage ’74 and V-Plus Lenses
Film Laboratory: ARRI Film & TV, München, Germany (dailies: Europe)
Technicolor PostWorks, New York (NY), USA (dailies: US)
Technicolor, Los Angeles (CA), USA (digital intermediate)
Negative Format 35 mm Film (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219)



Tom Hanks … James B. Donovan
Mark Rylance … Rudolf Abel
Domenick Lombardozzi … Agent Blasco
Victor Verhaeghe … Agent Gamber
Mark Fichera … FBI Agent
Brian Hutchison … FBI Agent
Joshua Harto … Bates
Henny Russell … Receptionist
Rebekah Brockman … Alison (Donovan’s Secretary)
Alan Alda …Thomas Watters Jr.
John Rue … Lynn Goodnough
Billy Magnussen … Doug Forrester
Amy Ryan … Mary Donovan
Jillian Lebling … Peggy Donovan
Noah Schnapp … Roger Donovan
Eve Hewson … Carol Donovan
Joel Brady … Police Officer – Brooklyn Courthouse
Austin Stowell … Francis Gary Powers
Michael Pemberton … Lie Detector Test Administrator
Jesse Plemons … Joe Murphy
Geoffrey Rude … Pilot in Motel Room
Michael Kempen … Pilot in Motel Room
Michael Gaston … Agent Williams
Dakin Matthews … Judge Byers

The film opens In Brooklyn in 1957, we see a middle-aged man, in front of a mirror painting a self-portrait, He is interrupted by a phone call, to which he listen, but never speaks. The painter, we learn to be Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), leaves his studio, with his painting supplies, takes the train to the park and sets-up to capture the cityscape in oils. our suspicions are confirmed when he retrieves a coin hidden under the bench, then packs up to return to his apartment.
We watch Able as he uses a razor to split the hollowed coin containing a message in micro-printing on tissue-thin paper. Minutes later, a half a dozen FBI agents, storm into Abel’s apartment to arrest him for espionage. The thin man in his underwear, clearly unarmed, moving slowly without demonstrating the slightest sign of resistance; is given the permission to clean off his palette so the paint won’t harden- he calmly does, unknown to the FBI agents, using the message-filled tissue along with the rag. The man is professional.

James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is a lawyer that specialize in defending insurance companies. He is shown to be sharp, well versed in the law, he’s going to protect his clients from over paying a claim, but has a inbreed sense of ethics. A managing partner of the firm, Thomas Watters Jr (Alan Alda) informs Donovan that the courts are forcing their firm to take-on the Abel’s case. Donovan, is quite patriotic, and he is unhappy this task is falling to him. He reminds them that he has not done any criminal defense work for many years, and is unhappy to be connected defending a suspected spy. As he figured, his wife and three kids do not understand why he accepted the case. His explanation that he is not defending a spy, he is defending his belief in the constitution- that every man is entitled to a fair trial.
In many ways, Steven Spielberg is the classic American director, and under his influence, Tom Hanks is the closest actor we have to Jimmy Stewart. He is the “Everyman” yet with a moral core that speaks to our better nature- the person we would like to believe we are, or could be when tested. Donovan is the reluctant hero, he didn’t want the job, but if tasked, he is going to do it to the best of ability, always holding on to his conviction that the values of the constitution trump any single criminal conviction.

Donovan travels to the prison that is housing Abel . The spy refuses to admit any wrong doing, but doesn’t seem to deny it either. He explains that the American’s had offered to drop all charges if he switched sides, a proposition that Abel explains he rejected. Donovan explains the basic rules of a court appointed lawyer and “IF” Able agreed, that as his attorney he would legally be working for him and not for the government. Rudolf Abel, who despite us knowing he is a spy, is played by Mark Rylance in a way that makes it very difficult for us not to like him; trusts that Donovan is a good man, and signs the letter accepting him as his lawyer.
Donovan is followed, on a rainy night by a man that reveals himself to be a CIA Agent named Hoffman (Scott Shepherd).Now, out of the rain, the two have a few drinks at a bar where Hoffman tries to get Donovan to share any information Abel tell him in confidence. While Donovan is shown to be a true patriot, he hold tightly to his sworn duty to attorney client privilege.

It is here where the quality of the writing shines. the story is linear and plot-driven yet it asks deeper questions and demands we not lose sight of our greater long-term values as we pursue short-term advantages. This was true in the height of the cold-war, but one would be naive not to recognize parallels in the rhetoric tossed about on the campaign trail in 2016.

Donovon, is not motivated by greed or ego, but purely by a compulsion to take the morally correct path. His actions stem from a genuine sense of empathy, and when the people with whom he’s negotiating realize this truth, they relent.

Spielberg might not be known for groundbreaking direction, but he is consistently known as producing near technically perfect work. This film is filled with director trademarks, such as bright sunlight shining through windows, he has returned to Janusz Kaminski as his cinematographer, and he continues his dedication to shooting on film.

Bridge of Spies is a well crafted, carefully written film, that plays to our better selves while embracing our classic film legacy.

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