Bridge of Spies

Once again our favorite Everyman Tom Hanks is working with his long- time friend and collaborator Steven Spielberg ("Saving Private Ryan" and "Band of Brothers"). These guys seem convinced that Americans need to know more WWII history. Lucky for us the Coen brothers are on the writing team, they bring some very dry humor to the Cold War as we watch two superpowers (plus East Germany) negotiate an exchange of spies.

This time Hanks is an insurance lawyer ordered to defend a Russian spy. His reluctance to side with the enemy is justified when his family is targeted by outraged citizens who now see him as anti-American. We also watch as some Air Force pilots are assigned to the CIA; they will fly camera-equipped U2 spy planes 70,000 feet above the USSR. They are called "drivers" and are instructed to commit suicide if they are caught. They are stunned!

We see:
  • Tom Hanks ("The Terminal") is perfect as James Donovan, a highly rated attorney who hasn't practiced criminal law in decades. He's smart, funny, and very, very resourceful. He quickly realizes his "client" will be denied Constitutional protection by the American courts. As a lawyer responsible for an accused prisoner, all he can do now is try to prevent the death penalty.
  • Amy Ryan ("Birdman:...") is Mary, his wife. When he goes to East Berlin to negotiate a trade - his Russian spy for the American pilot of a downed spy plane - she thinks he's going to Scotland to fish.
  • Alan Alda ("The Longest Ride") is Thomas Watters, Donovan's boss. It's at his insistence that Donovan must take up this case.
  • Austin Stowell ("Behind the Candelabra") is Francis Gary Powers, a U2 pilot (not the band!) who was shot down from Russian skies.
  • Mark Rylance ("Wolf Hall") is amazing as Rudolf Abel, the notorious agent who meticulously eludes discovery for so long. When asked if he is frightened, he replies, "Would it help?"
  • Sebastian Koch ("The Lives of Others") Wolfgang Vogel is the East German official who resents being overlooked by the two superpowers who ignore him...in his own city!
  • Will Rogers ("The Bay") is Frederic Pryor, a student caught behind the Berlin wall as he tries to rescue his girlfriend. Donovan wants him to be part of the deal, too.
Cold War, Donovan, Abel, Powers... Many of these names will draw a blank from the younger generation because History as a school subject is no longer considered politically correct. Do they know about the Berlin Wall? We see it being built in this wonderful film; AND for period touches, we see an astonishing array of vintage cars, plus discarded flash bulbs on the floor, I had forgotten about those. In addition, Donovan makes a terrific speech to the Supreme Court about what makes America unique.

I can't help but recall George Santanaya's immortal quote: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." More's the pity... Every young American should see this PG-13 movie. (By the way, be sure to stay for the terrific postscripts!)
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Here is a preview:
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