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Bridge of Spies

Directed by Steven Spielberg

USA, 2015

HOME, 21 December 2015

Bridge of Spies

As you would expect with Spielberg, this is a superb entertainment, a suspenseful and engrossing Cold War drama set in 1957.

Tom Hanks plays James Donovan, a lawyer given the task of negotiating a spy swap in East Berlin. He wants to exchanging a Soviet colonel, this fellow he had previously represented in court, for Gary Powers, a pilot shot down over Soviet territory. An American economics student is somehow in the mix too. There is a terrific pace to the film throughout and the sequence where Powers’ plane is shot down is quite spectacular. Spielberg has a golden touch still.

If you are looking for contemporary resonance here, you can find that too. In the figure of James Donovan, a man who upholds what he calls ‘the rule book’ – the Constitution, American law and values – one can read a critique of the conduct of recent American governments, and not just that led by George W. Bush, always an easy target. Barack Obama apparently has no qualms about Guantanamo Bay. And as for Powers’ high-tech plane, a U-2, one might see this as an allusion to the predator drone, a weapon beloved by Obama. He even used the drone to target and kill an American citizen, one Anwar al-Awlaki. One wonders what James Donovan would have to say about that?

Of course, the many innocent deaths due to drone strikes are attributable to poor intelligence and/or human error. There’s nothing wrong with the technology behind the drone, and therefore every reason to continue using it.

Bridge of Spies is a fine film.