Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies

(M) Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan

Before the Irish band existed, U2 had a completely different meaning to the world.

At the beginning of the Cold War, Francis Gary Powers (played by Austin Stowell) was a pilot of the new reconnaissance U-2 plane that was shot down over the Soviet Union. He was captured, and interrogated by the KGB. Lesser known are two other men who played significant roles in what became one of the most critical negotiations during the Cold War. James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) was a successful insurance lawyer with an influential New York law firm, and Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) was a Russian artist suspected of espionage in the USA.

Like many episodes of the international spy game, much of this one was fought behind the closed doors of world politics. Academy-Award winning director Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List) brings us a screen version of this incredible story, offering us a view of how the power of negotiation helped to keep the world from going down the path of nuclear war.

Bridge of Spies‘ trailers do a disservice to this fascinating historical drama. In the attempt to portray this story as an action film, many may categorise it merely as another spy adventure. This would be unfortunate, because you could potentially miss out on a well-crafted and engaging depiction of world history.


Having previously worked together on Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me If You Can, the Spielberg/Hanks combination continues to be a winning recipe for delectable cinema. Add in the writing skills of the Coen brothers (Fargo, True Grit) and this multi-layered political tale goes from ordinary to  something special. It is easy to dismiss Hanks and Spielberg as being formulaic or predictable, but their styles of film-making provide the needed touch to move this film beyond being award-seeking docudrama fodder and into the realm of enjoyable and satisfying entertainment.

As mentioned before, Bridge of Spies should not be mistaken as an action film, not does it seem to be the intention of the film-makers to deliver Bond or Bourne in this depiction of history. In the build-up to the primary drama, there are some slower moments, but this quickly changes to intensity and the script provides the tension that will draw audiences into an important part of world history.

Spielberg delivers a wonderful film that doesn’t rely on special effects to drive its story, which will draw the audience in. He shows the values of the ’50s and ’60s, as well as telegraphing the changes that were about to come onto the world stage. This allows for an appreciation of the freedoms provided in the West, while showing that these freedoms do come at a cost.

Freedom. What does it really cost? Many think that freedom is a right, but may miss the fact that behind every freedom, there are sacrifices by people or nations to secure those freedoms. Bridge of Spies shows that many of the freedoms that a nation appreciates come from great struggle by individuals who are willing to sacrifice their own freedoms for the benefit of the whole.

Does the Bible have anything to say about freedom? It is a bigger topic than one paragraph affords. The Apostle Paul wrote about freedom throughout many of his letters. The key idea is that, as Christians, we have been freed from being slaves to sin. But we are still bound to God and a life of serving. Also, the freedom that can be enjoyed in this life comes at a great cost, — the death of the Saviour.

Bridge of Spies was a great film and is worth the time of anyone who loves well-made, quality movies. Well done to Spielberg and Hanks.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. What does the Bible say about freedom? (Romans 8: 1-4, Galatians 5:1)
  2. Can we ever find true justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
  3. What does the Bible say about peace? (Matthew 5:9, Matthew 10:34-36)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger


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