Bridge Of Spies

The combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg delivered an awesomely wonderful and delightful film in Bridge Of Spies. A 2015 historical drama legal thriller film directed and co-produced by Spielberg, is co-produced by Marc E. Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger, and written by Matt Charman, Ethan and Joel Coen. The film stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda.

Rudolf Abel, a Scottish born Russian spy is arrested by FBI agents in Brooklyn. With a lot of evidence against him, Abel is told that if he cooperates his sentence will be lowered but he doesn’t offer up anything. When the question about representation for the spy comes up, it’s apparent that no one wants to the scapegoat. James B. Donovan is an insurance lawyer with substantial negotiation experience and worked on prosecutions of German war crimes in the Nuremberg trials. The bar association asks him to defend Abel, in order to ensure that justice is seen to be done. Donovan, although knows his client is guilty, does his work earnestly identifying procedural flaws in the government’s case which are ignored by the judge. He comes under a lot of pressure from the public, friends and family as the conclusion is foregone. Abel is judged guilty as charged.

Donovan meets the judge privately before sentencing and argues that Abel not be sentenced to death, as he could serve as “insurance” if a U.S. spy is captured. Abel is sentenced to 30 years in prison, which causes outrage by the public and sees hate mail pouring towards the direction of Donovan and his family and even threats in the form of a gun shot fired at his home. Nevertheless, he appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is denied, arguing evidence presented was tainted by lack of a valid search warrant. As the case is concluding, the American military & airforce plans an aerial spy run above Soviet skies to take photos of key areas. Pilot Gary Powers goes on a Lockheed U-2 sortie over the Soviet Union and is shot down, captured, unable to kill himself before that happens and convicted and subjected to interrogation. The USSR sends a backchannel message to Donovan, hinting at exchanging of Abel for Powers. Director of Central Intelligence Allen Welsh Dulles asks Donovan to handle negotiations, formally merely as a private citizen, negotiating with ‘Mr. Vogel’ in East Germany. Donovan travels to West Berlin accompanied by CIA agents.

As this is happening, a young American student in Germany named Frederic Pryor, visits his German girlfriend in East Berlin just as the Berlin Wall is being built. He tries to bring her into West Berlin, but is stopped by border guards and arrested as an American spy. Donovan goes to the Soviet Embassy in East Berlin, and meets Ivan Schischkin. Schischkin asks for Abel to be released first, and Powers released several months after, but Donovan insists on simultaneous release. Donovan also wants Pryor released, but Schischkin informs him that Pryor is held by East Germany. Donovan, who understands that the Russian and East German interests do not match, each wants to make a one-for-one deal for Abel. Donovan meets Wolfgang Vogel, a GDR lawyer, and negotiates a separate deal to exchange Abel for Pryor. Schischkin informs Donovan that the USSR agrees with the proposed trade, and plans the exchange to occur on the Glienicke Bridge. However, Vogel pulls out after discovering the deal Donovan made with the USSR. Donovan is contacted by Vogel’s superior, Harald Ott, East German attorney general, and goes to his office insisting on the 2-for-1 deal. Ott bluntly refuses.

Donovan sends a message to Ott, stating that the U.S. requires both Pryor and Powers for Abel, or the entire deal will be void. That evening, the GDR calls and accepts, with the requirement that Pryor is to be released at Checkpoint Charlie instead, simultaneously. At the bridge Donovan meets Abel and on the other side Powers is brought forth. Both Americans and Russians urge a quick completion, but Donovan insists on waiting for Pryor’s release. Out of gratitude, Abel waits. Eventually, Pryor is released at Checkpoint Charlie, and Abel is promptly exchanged for Powers. An exhausted Donovan returns home as the news of his involvement in the release of Powers is reported on TV, watched by his family. As the movie ends, Donovan heads for work in a train and gets a smile from a lady who recognizes him when early he got frowns and he just nods with a small smile.

Wonderful movie, great acting and it’s fun as well. Whenever Abel asks “Will it help?” I cracked up. Just a wonderfully uplifting movie to watch. A 9 outta 10!

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