Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Bridge

When it was decided to make an American version of this story, there was the matter of picking a bridge. Canada was considered, in particular the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, which I crossed a hundred times in 1965 when I was working in the Motor City. (Back then, they just waved you across in both directions. Can you believe it?) Bad idea. The whole thrust of these of these stories concerns culture clashes, and though of course there are some differences between Yanks and Canucks, they consist mostly of some pronunciations, the fact that they have prettier money, and … actually, I can’t really think of any more. If you want Toronto to stand in for Minneapolis, for instance, all you really need to do is change the license plates on the cars. Trust me, I observed this while making Millennium.

But Mexico! There’s a culture clash. Far deeper than between Denmark and Sweden or France and the UK. It is a border between the richest nation in history and a third world country that had enough problems to begin with, but now has been devastated by America’s insane War on Drugs. Cuidad Juárez, separated from El Paso by just a ditch and a lot of fencing, has been hit harder than any other city. The busiest crossing, which looks like a traffic nightmare, is the Bridge of the Americas. On one side, a town that has around ten murders a year and an honest police force. On the other, a police force almost totally controlled by the various warring cartels, which has … no one knows just how many murders, because a lot of the victims just vanish.

This is fertile ground for this story. Diane Kruger is Sonya Cross, the straight-arrow by-the-book El Paso cop. Demián Bichir is Marco Ruiz, one of the only Chihuahua State Police officers in Juárez who is not corrupt … but he has to make a lot of accommodations, not upset the powers that be too much, and he is willing to bend the rules. The contrasts between the two sides of the bridge couldn’t be more stark. The series ran for two seasons, and we were sorry that it wasn’t picked up for a third, even though I’d have to say that this is the weakest of the three versions. Though not by very much.

That is probably because Diane Kruger is the weakest of the Saga/Elise/Sonya trio. Not that she is bad at all, and part of the blame lies with the writers, who couldn’t stop themselves from softening her up, making her a little less distant, a little more apt to smile. That’s not want I want in this part. I want Saga’s endless puzzlement at the things people do, I want her unintentionally brutal honesty and her inability to completely join the human race. Ironically, I think Bichir may be the strongest of the three male leads, though he does have an annoying tendency to speak in a loud whisper. Usually I would hate that, but somehow he makes it work.

I was astonished to learn that English is not Diane Kruger’s first language. It’s not her second, either. It’s her third. She is German, fluent in French, and speaks English without a trace of an accent. After learning this we just had to see her in a German picture, and watched In the Fade, which was a bit of a disappointment, though not because of her.

* There was actually a fourth edition of this same story: (Moct in Russian; Sild in Estonian) centering on the Friendship Bridge between Narva in Estonia and Ivangorod in Russia. Somehow I feel the word “Friendship” is more a fond hope than a reality. Estonians have no love for the Russians, and deeply resent 46 years of being shit on by the Soviet Union. I looked it up on Google, and there don’t appear to be any long lines to cross the border. It was broadcast in 2018 and I would really like to watch this series, but it’s not available anywhere. So far.