Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Bridge of Spies

(USA, Germany, India, 2015)

Inspired by real events. Based on a true story. These words almost guarantee you’re getting a highly fictionalized account. I wouldn’t trust more than half the stuff you see in this movie. Fact: Rudolf Abel (real name Vilyan Genrikhovich Fisher) was a Soviet spy who was arrested and convicted in 1957. Fact: Francis Gary Powers was a U-2 pilot for the CIA who was shot down over the USSR. Fact: James B. Donovan defended Abel and negotiated a prisoner exchange, Abel for Powers, plus an American youth held by East Germany. Fact: The exchange happened on the Glienicke Bridge. So there are the bones of the story. Just about everything else you see was made up for dramatic purposes.

Which doesn’t mean this is a bad movie. It’s not. Just don’t write your college thesis about the Cold War using this as a source. Tom Hanks is always good. Mark Rylance won the Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Abel, and though I haven’t seen the other candidates, he is quite good. And the script is by Matt Charman and, oddly enough, Joel and Ethan Coen, who did some re-writing. Steven Spielberg directs, and that’s probably why this was nominated for Best Picture. It’s good, but it had no real claim to being on the ballot.