Every Person Deserves A Defense “Bridge of Spies”
Every person deserves a defense, every person matters….
When Brooklyn lawyer James B. Donovan is thrust into the center of the Cold War he is given a mission to negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, a pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. Welcome to Bridge of Spies, the latest from director Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. It’s been almost a three-year wait since Steven Spielberg’s last movie (2012’s Lincoln) but with the release this October with the spy thriller Bridge of Spies, Spielberg is back and with a genre he has perfected. Bridge of Spies Spielberg does what he does best- brings to life a chapter in history and this is a chapter he happens to know personally- the Cold War. Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, a lawyer the CIA recruited to rescue a spy pilot downed in the Soviet Union. Bridge of Spies is the true story of three extraordinary characters – William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, a British born KGB agent arrested by the FBI in New York City and jailed as a Soviet superspy for trying to steal America’s most precious nuclear secrets; Gary Powers, the American U-2 pilot who was captured when his plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over the closed cities of central Russia; and Frederic Pryor, a young American graduate student in Berlin mistakenly identified as a spy, arrested and held without charge by the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police. Who were the three men the American and Soviet superpowers exchanged at Berlin’s Glienicke Bridge and Checkpoint Charlie in the first and most legendary prisoner exchange between East and West? Bridge of Spies vividly traces their paths to that exchange on February 10, 1962, when their fate helped to define the conflicts and lethal undercurrents of the most dangerous years of the Cold War.
Drawing on new interviews conducted in the United States, Europe and Russia with key players in the exchange and the events leading to it, among them Frederic Pryor himself and the man who shot down Gary Powers, Bridge of Spies captures a time when the fate of the world really did depend on coded messages on microdots and brave young men in pressure suits. The exchange that frigid day at two of the most sensitive points along the Iron Curtain represented the first step back from where the superpowers had stood since the building of the Berlin Wall the previous summer – on the brink of World War III.
In a recent interview while taking a break from editing up and coming July 2016The BFG, based on the classic Roald Dahl children’s book, the director recently sat down and explained what first drew him to the project. “I’ve always wanted to make a spy movie. This is not James Bond. Only James Bond can be James Bond. I’ve always been fascinated with the entertainment value of the James Bond spy series of movies, as well as the serious John le Carre spy novels, especially the Martin Ritt movie The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Also spy pictures like The Quiller Memorandum and The Ipcress File, and Torn Curtain by Hitchcock in the ’60s.”
Just what was it about the Cold War in particular that appealed to the three-time Academy Award winning director? “I lived through the Cold War and I was very aware of the possibility of walking down the street and seeing a white flash and being atomized. I was very; very aware of what a tentative and insecure time it was, especially for young people. It’s something that made a big impression on me as a kid. We were shown instructional 16mm films of what to do in the event of the air raid sirens going off or seeing the flash and ducking and covering under your desk and holding, hopefully, a very large book over your head.”
What connection did Spielberg see between that period of time and what we face today? “There’s so much relevance between the late ’50s and today. We fly drones today; they flew U2 spy planes over Soviet Russia in the ’50s. Our story is also about the shooting down of Gary Powers’ U2 and the apprehension of a Soviet spy working in this country for over a decade: Rudolph Abel. And the negotiator – a fish-out-of-water – an insurance attorney who used to be the associate prosecutor at the Nuremberg war-crime trials who was called upon to defend an alleged Soviet spy, and the kind of charged atmosphere he was willing to endure to see justice served. It’s a story about a very righteous, principled individual – and for Tom Hanks, it’s right up his alley.”
But the real appeal of this compelling story is that it tells the tale of what can happen when ordinary people are thrust into extraordinary circumstance Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and with “Bridge of Spies,” nothing brings that face closer to home. It is the best in storytelling, because it actually happened. The issues which consumed the world at that time and which are so integral to this story are still real and pertinent today. Navigating the unfamiliar waters of high-stakes international intrigue, James Donovan rose to the occasion with a modesty befitting the heroic acts, which he performs, becoming an unsung civilian hero, and in the process, the inspiration for an incredibly powerful story and film.
Sometimes, truth is indeed, better than any fiction. Mark your calendars and get ready for Bridge of Spies heading to theaters October 16.
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Bridge of Spies opens October 16