‘Bridge of Spies’ Review: Spielberg Resists Liberal Ideology, Hanks Brings Out Best Performance

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Steven Spielberg is by far one of the most prolific filmmakers in modern history, from suspenseful adventures like the Indiana Jones franchise and Jurassic Park to heartwarming classics like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler’s List. The list goes on and on. Tom Hanks on the other hand is known for films such as Big, Forrest Gump, and Apollo 13. He also played the voice of Sheriff Woody in the Toy Story films. Both men are committed liberals, but what differentiates them from others in their ilk are they’re Americans first, and lift-wingers later. That’s one of the reasons why their latest film together, Bridge of Spies, puts political posturing aside to focus on an exchange of a Russian spy named Rudolph Abel for American soldier Francis Gary Powers.

Hanks plays James B. Donovan, an attorney who in real life mainly did not work on defense cases. That all changed during the cold war. In 1957, KGB spy Rudolph Ablel was arrested in Brooklyn by the FBI after retrieving a secret message from a park bench. Now, it’s up to Donovan to defend him at all costs. You might think that Spielberg is sympathizing with the enemy here (since he made the Russian Czars the enemy of the Jews in the 1986 animated film An American Tail, only the Czars were cats and the Jews were mice who want to move to America), but that really isn’t the case. The film’s goal is to show the risks lawyers have to take. Defense lawyers have to do whatever it takes to defend their clients in the most controversial of instances, even if it means having to exchange a Russian spy for an American soldier. Eventually he successfully gets his wish, and consider that a spoiler alert, because history always spoils itself – even in film).

No doubt, this film proves Steven Spielberg still has the skill and the ambition that made him a huge star in the 70’s and 80’s. The script was a great fit for him, and I don’t know anyone other than Spielberg who can. This is by far the best film out of this year’s Oscar contenders. With Spielberg’s name on it though, it’s more than just a crowd pleaser – it’s a film any adult can enjoy instead of just arthouse elitists.

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