Film review: BRIDGE OF SPIES

From Facebook, 3jan16:

Today’s movie: “Bridge of Spies”, seen belatedly, nearly 3 months after it was released. (We saw it at the last theater still showing it anywhere in the Bay Area, an independent in Berkeley — another nice, old-fashioned theater with a charming lobby that lets right out onto the street. And parking on residential side-streets.) The film is typically polished Spielberg, a detailed story about an insurance lawyer, played by Tom Hanks, at first defending a Soviet spy captured by the CIA in 1957, and later negotiating a prisoner exchange for that spy for U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, captured by the Soviets when his plane was shot down, and another American captured by East Germany. I admire Spielberg for his ambition at taking on serious subjects in his recent films, while at the same time being aware of his being a master manipulator of storytelling; in this film there are a couple cute edits where the consequence of some action in one scene plays out in a different context; and there are several parallel scenes from before and after events; and especially, how he can milk many a dramatic scene, especially the final exchange on the bridge of the title, and the final scene when the Hanks character returns home. You can admire his technique, almost cynically, while still getting choked up.

Tragically, the real Gary Powers went to work as a helicopter pilot for the NBC News affiliate in Los Angeles, and was killed in 1977 when his copter went down in the Sepulveda Dam Recreational Center, near where I lived at the time.

The story does have some echoes with current events — the whole early plot concerns the Hanks character’s willingness to defend a man who is almost certainly a Soviet spy, a man his colleagues want to see hanged, because America runs by the rule of the Constitution, and therefore the man deserves a legitimate defense. Currently we are now in a political era in which several (Republican) candidates for president seem willing to cavalierly disregard Constitution protections against fears of immigrants and the poor — there was an echo of this in “The Big Short” as well — or on the grounds of “religious liberty”.

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