Reviewed by: Curtis McParland
Tom Hanks … James Donovan
Alan Alda … Thomas Watters
Amy Ryan … Mary Donovan
Peter McRobbie … Allen Dulles
Billy Magnussen … Doug Forrester
Eve Hewson … Jan Donovan
Austin Stowell … Francis Gary Powers
Mark Rylance … Rudolf Abel
Domenick Lombardozzi … Agent Blasco
Sebastian Koch … Wolfgang Vogel
Michael Gaston … Williams
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|Distributor||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
“In the shadow of war, one man showed the world what we stand for.”
Steven Spielberg delivers once again with his Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies.” James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is an insurance lawyer who is hired by the CIA to defend a Russian spy by the name of Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance). Being an insurance salesman, Donovan is hesitant to take on this case but sees it as his patriotic duty to defend Abel and provide him with a fair trial. However, no one, including Donovan’s own family, expects him to make a valiant effort at reaching an acquittal for Abel. Donovan works hard to convince the judge to appeal a potential death sentence for Abel after he is found guilty on everything charged against him This does not make Donovan very popular with the rest of the public, though, as he receives hate mail and even death threats. Donovan convinces the judge to hold Abel as a potential tool of trade in the event that an American may be captured. After not one, but two American citizens are captured and held prisoner by the enemy, Donovan is now on the case to bring negotiations to the Soviets for the trading of Rudolph Abel for these two American men.
“Bridge of Spies” is an extremely well-crafted thriller that is definitely the best film I have seen this year. The writing is flawless, the film’s leads dominate in their acting roles, and, of course, Spielberg delivers some of his best direction in recent memory. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg prove to show that after nearly after a decade they still have the strong chemistry to help bring history to life and “Bridge of Spies” is a perfect example of that. Due to health issues, John Williams was unable to compose the score for the film, but Thomas Newman stepped up to the plate in fine form and delivered a strong, compelling musical score. It should also be mentioned that Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful as he guides us through the dark streets of Berlin to the historical atmosphere of federal courtrooms. Bridge of Spies will be no doubt be considered another Steven Spielberg classic.
Unfortunately, “Bridge of Spies” does contain some content concerns, though. The most concerning is the use of some strong language including two f-words, an s-word, a misuse or two of Jesus’ name and God’s name paired with d*mn (3). Expressions including “In the name of God” and “What in God’s name” are interjected a few times as well. Around a half-dozen total milder obscenities pop up including h*ll, b*tch, and a**.
There is isn’t any sexual content to be concerned about, as the closest we get to it is briefly seeing a man in his underwear. The violence is kept to a minimum as someone takes a gunshot through a character’s window just missing someone inside, a plane is shot down and breaks apart in the air (the pilot ejects safely), and a few characters are shot down from a distance (not graphic). One character is put through sleep-deprived interrogations including bright lights and being splashed with buckets of water and some others are told they should commit suicide if they think they may be captured by the enemy. A character is hit in the groin with a rifle butt. The drug and alcohol content is limited, as we only see a few characters smoke and some others consume some hard liquor.
“Bridge of Spies” still provides its audience with some strong redemptive themes, though, as the value of defending one’s country is clearly displayed in addition to even the enemy deserving a fair and equal chance at trial. Donovan shows great dedication to his country and to Abel as he tries his hardest to spare his life and return him back to his home. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (ESV) says to “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” Although Donovan started to become one of the most hated men in the United States, he stayed strong and firm during this very long, exhausting trial. It should also be noted that Donovan will not take “no” for an answer and sees not only the value in rescuing one American, but two in the process. In fact, he strategizes the best he can to trade one man for two so no one will be left behind. It was also refreshing to see a family praying around a dinner table and the Pledge of Allegiance recited in a public school.
“Bridge of Spies” is definitely aimed more towards an adult audience not mainly because of its content, but because of the intense themes portrayed and the film’s overall tone. I’ll still give this film a recommendation due to its strong themes of patriotism, the value of friendship and family, and themes of loyalty and dedication for standing up for what one believes is right. Please take caution, though, as this film does contain some harsh language and the themes of war may be a bit bothersome to more sensitive audiences. This film should be suitable for ages 13+ depending on maturity and may very well not just be a good history lesson for younger generations, but a moral one as well. “Bridge of Spies” is much more family-friendly than Spielberg’s 2012 historical piece, “Lincoln,” but not quite as clean as 2011’s “War Horse.” However, “Bridge of Spies” is most definitely one of the best films this year and is also one of the safer releases you will find in theaters this fall. Come awards season, don’t be too surprised to see this film nominated in multiple categories. Spielberg has done it once again by bringing history to life and engaging his audience with thrilling, historical facts.
Violence: Moderate to heavy / Profanity: Moderate to heavy / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.