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REVIEW: “Bridge of Spies” a top-notch production

"Bridge of Spies" stars Tom Hanks.
“Bridge of Spies” stars Tom Hanks.

“Bridge of Spies,” an espionage Cold War drama based on a true story and directed by Steven Spielberg, is an excellent movie dealing with patriotism and doing the right thing.

Tom Hanks stars as Jim Donovan, a Brooklyn insurance lawyer, who one day finds himself agreeing to defend a man named Rudolf Abel, who has been accused of being a spy for the Soviets. This is not something that his wife and children want him to do, knowing the potential negative effects that it could have on them. After some reluctance in the beginning, Donovan takes the case on, knowing that even those accused of treason deserve fair legal representation. The Constitution is something Donovan very much believes in.

For some reason, Abel does not seem overly concerned about the predicament that he is in, even though capital punishment is a possible sentence for him. He is calm in his demeanor and his only request from Donovan while jailed is a piece of paper and writing utensil because he is an artist and really likes to draw.

In another subplot, several young United States pilots are informed of an upcoming top-secret mission that they will be a part of against the Soviets.  They are told that if their plane is shot down and escape looks unlikely, the honorable and patriotic thing to do would be to use the pin and coin they were given and basically commit suicide. (There is a fatal drug dose in the pin and coin.) As one of the soldiers is flying high in the sky with a large spy camera attached to his plane, he is shot down by the enemy and captured.

When Donovan learns of this news, it is decided that he will try to negotiate the release of this captured soldier named Francis Gary Powers in exchange for Abel.  Soon, though, Donovan learns that another American has been captured. This time it is a college student who has been studying in East Berlin named Frederic Pryor, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The C.I.A makes it clear that they just want Powers for Abel, but Donovan is also interested in getting back the student as well.

Hanks in his portrayal of Donovan evokes Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  Both are lawyers who are given the thankless task of defending a man who is despised by the public and stands little chance of getting an acquittal. They each have strong morals they are unwilling to compromise.

The film is able to make us feel what it was like at that time in history. As expected Hanks gives a strong performance, while the man playing the accused spy (Mark Rylance) gives a moving performance that resonates.

One of the best movies of the year, “Bridge of Spies” is sure to be an Oscar contender. What could have been a preachy, dry history lesson, is anything but that.

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