Tom Hanks is terrific in Steven Spielberg’s BRIDGE OF SPIES, a highly satisfying historical drama based on real people and real events. In 1957 at the height of the Cold War between Soviet Russia and the United States, an honest, ethical insurance lawyer is asked to defend a captured Russian spy. Jim Donovan: I’m an insurance lawyer; I haven’t done criminal work in years.
As played by Tom Hanks, lawyer James Donovan is understandably taken aback when he’s pretty much ordered to take defend a Russian spy.
Head law firm: It’s important to our country, Jim, that this man is seen as getting a fair shake.
And a “fair shake” is what the honorable Donovan will give the accused spy even though nearly everyone else is looking for just the appearance of fair treatment. British actor, Mark Rylance plays the spy Rudolph Abel, who, surprisingly, seems like a decent person.
Abel: Are you good at what you do? Donovan: This will be a first for both of us. Abel: You should be careful.
But Donovan defies those who would compromise his case like the CIA agent who wants him to violate the attorney-client privilege.
Agent: We need to know what the Russian is telling you. Donovan: We’re not having this conversation. Agent: Don’t go boy scout on me. We don’t have a rule book here. Donovan: We call it the Constitution and that’s what makes us Americans….So don’t tell me there’s no rule book.
Even the judge isn’t interested in giving the defendant his due. But the accused spy himself seems unflappable.
Donovan: Do you ever worry? Abel: Would it help?
When the sentence is 30 years instead of death, the courtroom erupts.
Man in the crowd: Why aren’t we hanging him? In the name of God why aren’t we hanging him? Judge: Sit down. Another voice in the crowd: He’s a spy!
In the movie’s second half, the stakes are even higher. Donovan is sent to East Berlin to negotiate a swap with the Russians of Mr. Abel for Gary Powers, the American pilot shot down as he took photos of Soviet territory from an altitude of 70,000 feet. And Donovan is again smarter and more agile in the negotiations than a shrewd politician. He’s scared; he’s out of his depth, and he has a bad cold, but he does what he has to do. BRIDGE OF SPIES celebrates the kind of honorable American this country needs more of. Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now.