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Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

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It’s more a Cold War chiller, with the right amount of wit and warmth to keep you rapt to a story that in any other hands could easily fall slat.

Bridge of Spies reunites masters in Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who with this historical chronicle, impress yet again at their craft and execution. It’s the telling of a story that should be told: a noble lawyer does that which is right by his country even though it is unpopular during a time when going against the tide may be the hardest to do.

An insurance lawyer, James Donovan finds an unusual case before him: defending a Russian man suspected to be a terrorist. The U.S. wants to show the world that they are different from the Soviets, that democracy shall win the day, and that means giving the accused a fair trial.

Donovan goes a step further, defending the case like any other, dutifully collecting evidence and following the letter of the law. He fails, of course, but endears himself to his client Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Abel, a thoughtful, quiet man is full of empathy – he’s just doing his job, argues Donovan, who campaigns rigorously against the death penalty should Abel prove useful down the road. That’s insurance.

Sure enough, a young American U2 pilot is shot down and captured by the Soviets, setting up the finale that the title suggests.

It’s never about cunning though: Bridge of Spies is so expertly executed, so strangely captivating, and so powerfully tense. It’s essentially a series of conversations in which Donovan advocates and argues for his cause, which happens to be the just and fair cause. Through rain and snow, Donovan travels to Berlin, bickering all the while, a perfect blend of intellect and humour.

It’s a simple and straightforward story whose ending is far more compelling that it should be. Just like the film. It spectacularly overachieves and impresses, and more than once it also inspires.

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