Faridoon Shahryar's Blog

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bridge Of Spies: A Brilliant Spy Saga With A Human Touch

Bridge Of Spies: A Brilliant Spy Saga With A Human Touch
By Faridoon Shahryar

Steven Spielberg's #BridgeOfSpies is handsome and mature entertainment that intrigues and makes you laugh as well. It is based on a true story in the early 1960s when the cold war was at its peak and the world was sharply divided between Capitalist America and Communist Soviet Union. Ample amount of blood was spilt at the newly constructed Berlin wall. In such circumstances an aged Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) gets caught in USA. To uphold the principles of American democracy, Abel gets a defence lawyer in James Donovan (Tom Hanks) who not only gets the probable death sentence of his client commuted to life imprisonment (despite strong resistance from his countrymen as well as the family), he does something even more historic.

When a US spy plane pilot gets caught in the Soviet net, the US government wants Donovan to bargain with the Soviets to get back the pilot in exchange of Abel. The Glienicke Bridge connected the West Berlin with East Berlin. It is on this bridge that four exchanges took place, the first one was executed by Donovan. The humane yet smart manner in which Donovan negotiates with the Soviets not only to get back the spy plane pilot but also an American student researching on Communist countries in Europe is an ideal case study on diplomacy of the finest kinds.

Backed by pleasurable writing by the Coen brothers (Ethan and Joel) and Matt Charman, and engaging direction by Spielberg, #BridgeOfSpies emerges as one of the best films of 2015. Donovan tells a CIA agent, "You're born in Germany while I was born in Ireland, what makes us American is our Constitution." There are several memorable lines. Also the low key dry humor makes you unexpectedly chuckle several times during the course of the film. Tom Hanks is expectedly brilliant not only as a no nonsense professional lawyer but also as a loving family man. In a crucial scene he has to bargain with young boys in Germany who impart information in return of his overcoat. Hanks, being the perfectionist that he is, digs deep into the Art of Negotiation mastered by a passionate lawyer. But arguably, Hanks is somewhat overshadowed by the massively understated Mark Rylance who displays deadpan humor and searing irony at the same time. Rylance has some of the best lines in the film even though the length of his role is much less than that of Hanks.

Janusz Kaminski's camera work sparkles with an air of nostalgia. Adam Stickhausen's production design is poetry in detailing. The manner in which the fraught-with-friction Germany of early 1960s has been recreated is exceptional. Spielberg makes sincere efforts to balance the politics of Cold war without colouring Soviets as all-black and Americans as all-white. Even then a passing glance from a train window clearly communicates how a wall in America is much easier to climb while the Berlin wall is a matter of life-and-death. The inference is easily understandable.

Even though Steven Spielberg has turned 69 but his passion for story telling is scaling new heights. No heavy duty VFX, no unreal tomfoolery, just the reliance on solid writing, deft direction, technically brilliant and some great performances makes #BridgeOfSpies a must watch film. Do NOT miss it!

Star Rating: **** 

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