Bridge of Spies Review
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Steven Spielberg obviously knows how to make a great war movie. After all, he won an Oscar for directing 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. But his latest war movie, the Cold War drama Bridge of Spies, is a very different kind of war movie, trading soldiers and rifles for spies and secret bargains.

Bridge of Spies tells the story of American insurance attorney Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks), who’s placed in a difficult position when he’s asked to defend suspected Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Though it means putting himself and his family in danger, Jim accepts the case and gives his client the best defense possible, building a kind of unlikely friendship with him in the process. And when an American spy pilot is captured in the Soviet Union, the CIA sends Jim to East Berlin to negotiate a trade.

  
 
James Bond may be the quintessential cinematic spy, but Bridge of Spies tells a real spy story. Gone are the flashy spy-movie flourishes—the beautiful women, the sinister villains, and the martinis (shaken, not stirred). Instead, the film is subtle but tense—with nondescript men battling for power in the form of information.

This is a war fought not with bombs and guns but with knowledge and negotiations—and that makes a successful lawyer like Jim Donovan the perfect soldier. He may not be trained as a spy, but he’s sharp and shrewd—able to assess the situation, twist it, and turn any negotiation in his favor. And because he isn’t a real spy, the character can give audiences an interesting (and sometimes even amusing) perspective on the spy world. His experiences aren’t cool and glamorous; they’re cold and dingy and uncertain.

Hanks is perfectly cast in the role—because he plays Jim as both clever and considerate. Underneath his ability to plead a case, he’s just a good guy. He’s honest and loyal, and he does everything with integrity and quiet strength. He stands up for what he believes—even if that means making unpopular decisions.

The story here isn’t exactly action-packed. It isn’t loud and explosive and filled with the horrors of combat, but it’s gripping in its own way. It’s a quieter, more thoughtful war movie, focusing on secrets, lies, suggestions, and appearances. And, with plenty of help from an accomplished cast and crew, Spielberg presents it all in a way that’s entertaining and engaging but not too heavy.

Though it’s far more subdued than this year’s other spy movies, Bridge of Spies is smart and striking and real—a fascinating look at a different kind of war.


Blu-ray Review:
The true story told in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is a fascinating one—and the features found on the film’s Blu-ray release just add to the story. Extras include a pair of behind-the-scenes features, A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies and Berlin 1961: Re-creating the Divide—both of which give the film more context. Here, the director discusses his personal connection to the story. Frederic Pryor and Francis Gary Powers, Jr. (though, strangely, no one from Donovan’s family) offer more insights into the action and drama. And various cast and crew members talk about life during the Cold War.

Also included are U-2 Spy Plane, which offers a closer look at the kind of plane that Powers flew, and Spy Swap: Looking Back on the Final Act, which ties up the film—and the features.

The extras on this release—especially the first two—do exactly what special features should do: they enhance the film. So after you finish watching the film, be sure to head over to the special features menu for more on this remarkable story.


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