Bridge Of Spies

At the height of the cold war , a soviet spy is caught in America and has to be given a trial . The inside info ( something that the public does not know ) is that the trial is obviously going to be a rigged trial---the soviet spy has to be sent to his death . But in order that the world should feel that America has a fair system of justice , that their system is better than that of the soviets , there has to be trial .

But who's gonna represent the soviet spy at the rigged trial as his defence attorney ?? Not only the defence attorney has to undergo the thankless task of losing the trial ( because it is rigged for him to lose ) , but he also has to endure the hate that common american citizens will have for him because he represents an enemy spy at the trial . He will get hate mail from american citizens and the more vicious among them will try to shoot him down . He will get hostile stares in any public transport ( like train for example ) he is travelling in , and could be a marked man .

So the defence attorney is actually a patriotic guy carefully chosen by the government itself to defend the spy , but he has to be so patriotic that he is willing to undergo the opprobrium that any person who defends the enemy spy will have to undergo without complaining . And such a guy does exist .

He is James Donovan , an insurance lawyer played by Tom Hanks . And needless to say he is a patriot---the very core of what America stands for . But as the trial progresses , he can't stop himself from actually really defending his defendant---to the extent that the judge admonishes him privately a couple of times . But Donovan is convinced that the soviet spy has to be saved and not killed so that he could be exchanged for an American caught by the soviets .

And such an american is duly found . He is none other than Gary Powers---an american air force pilot flying a U 2 reconnaissance aircraft from Peshawar in Pakistan to take photos of factories producing MIG fighter planes in the soviet union . The americans have been naive enough to underestimate soviet military capabilities and think that the U 2 flying at the altitude of 70000 feet will be too high for soviet surface to air missiles to intercept . But the Russians have developed such missiles and the U 2 carrying Gary Powers is shot down . Worse , he does not kill himself by the cyanide he has been given to commit suicide if caught but stands for trial in the soviet union .

Now Gary Powers has to be brought back . So the Americans approach Donovan again , to go to East Berlin and try to negotiate an exchange of the soviet spy for Gary Powers---because it is from East Berlin that messages have been coming to him .

But going into communist controlled east Berlin is dangerous . Not only the communists are building a wall to separate the east from the west , but goons control parts of the city . There is no guarantee of coming back safe , the weather is bitterly cold and snowing , and Donovan is adamant that another young american student must also be exchanged for the soviet spy---2 for 1 in fact . He insists both Gary and the student must be given by the communists for them to get their man . But the student is in custody of the east germans not the soviets who have Gary Powers in their hands , and Donovan has to deal with both the governments to get both men out in exchange for only one man . That is truly a tricky proposition at best .

So does he succeed in his quest ?? Watch the movie for that....

Tom Hanks is at the top of his game as far as acting is concerned , and Steven Spielberg as director is in fine form too . The movie has no real action , but the proceedings are as tense and taut as they get .

But what really warms the cockles of your heart is the dignity with which Donovan conducts himself , and the way in which he treats the soviet spy as a soldier who has been captured not as an enemy ( and captured soldiers have their rights too ) to the extent that the soviet spy begins to have real respect for him , all the while never allowing his loyalty to America come into question . And the way he negotiates with the communists , presenting his thoughts cleverly and not averse to subtly threatening them---modern lawyers have a lesson to be learnt from him .

The photography of post world war Berlin which is nothing but heap of ruins , makes for a stark background for this movie . And the endgame takes place on the bridge where the spies are to be exchanged---a bridge of spies in fact....
I felt the nervous tension permeating the theatre as the time of the exchange drew near---the same that the participants of the exchange must have been feeling . That I felt so in my comfortable seat itself is the triumph of the director , I feel .

Verdict---Good .