Brige of Spies is an exquisite political biopic!
Steven Spielberg comes up with a biography of a guy caught up in the jaws of political torture as he endeavours to negotiate the rescuing of two people in a cold war struck world. However, the movie isn’t limited to that. There are melodramatic bits strewn all across in the gravy of one helluva screenplay which is brilliantly topped by a stellar cast.
Bridge of Spies is an exceptional movie that has been helmed slowly, delicately and powerfully. There was a war going on, a colder one: a constant mental war of superiority between the two superpowers on the globe. In a twisted world like that, Rudolf Abel, a Soviet spy ends up becoming a victim to the US-Russia distress claws. To save his ass, a lawyer by profession, James B. Donovan, played marvellously by Tom Hanks, is hired with hopes of giving a fair trial yet a subdued one to cover up the hoopla. What ignites as an unfair trial gradually tangles him up further into an even bigger commotion wherein CIA approaches Donovan to make a barter of Abel for a fellow American spy pilot caught in Russia.
Scaling back a bit further, the thing that might strike you as a pleasant surprise is its beginning. We witness an old guy painting himself with the aid of a mirror. His acts are quite mundane, natural and harmless. Spielberg spends enough time on the character for us to relate to him, a normal guy who loves to paint, who is calm and couldn’t possibly mean trouble. On the contrary, we see a troupe of psyched CIA crowd bent on catching him. They bag him at an odd hour and bring chaos to his house, breaking all hell lose, without a search warrant. That’s where Donovan comes in with his propositions. But unfortunately chaos swallows him up. It becomes James v/s America, as every guy starts hating him for fighting a case for the Russian spy.
What was also great to watch was how people change their perspective. At one point it was manifested how the world leered at James when he was defending Abel, but then at a later stage when he saves two Americans, all that hatred ends up metamorphosing into sheer love.
Mark Rylance is outstanding as Rudolf Abel. At times his expressionless face belies his indifference towards the political muck he ends up in. Even when he is aware of an imminent danger, serenity rarely leaves him. He carries his knack for painting and wears it even at direst moments. For example, he calmly answers, “Would it help?” when asked “Are you not worried?” One of the most brilliant scenes in the movie is when Abel compares Donovan to ‘The Standing Man’ in his story. The music grows suddenly and imparts extra gravity to the bit.
It is always a delight to watch Tom Hanks act. His face carries the right kind of emotions. Always lost in thought, he makes Bridge of Spies a dramatic hoot. There are top-notch dramatic frames that Spielberg slides in for emphasis. Like the one where Donovan’s son gets influenced by a war video, and fills up his tub with water for safety. It is a sad reflection of how war changes everything. Also, at one point Donovan had the misfortune of witnessing people being fired at whilst trying to sneak through the border. At a later stage, James sees children leaping over fences, which reminds him of the same troubled scene which then again throws him into the pits of gloom.
What is a tad sad is how long the movie runs. The movie could have survived some cuts. There are frames that we could have lived without. However, it is comprehensible and justified to show crucial bits of the horror and mental torture Donovan had to go through in order to get the job done. When he returns home in the end, he dozes off at once owing to exhaustion whilst in the backdrop his family gets to know his greatness. Quite endearing to watch actually!
A highly recommended movie.