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Bridge of Spies

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2015 historical thriller based on the 1960 U-2 incident during the Cold War. Principal photography for Bridge of Spies began on September 8, 2014 in Brooklyn, New York City, and production proceeded at Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam. The movie was released by Touchstone Pictures on October 16, 2015. It was a box office success with a budget of $40 million and grossing $165 million worldwide. It received many positive reviews and six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and won Best Supporting Actor for Mark Rylance.

Directed by Steven Spielberg; produced by Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger; written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen; music by Thomas Newman; cinematography by Janusz Kaminski, edited by Michael Kahn.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios and 20th Century Fox (internationally).

Principal cast: Tom Hanks as James B. Donovan, Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel, Amy Ryan as Mary McKenna Donovan, Sebastian Koch as Wolfgang Vogel, Alan Alda as Thomas Watters, Auston Stowell as Francis Gary Powers, Scott Shepherd as CIA Agent Hoffman.

Plot: In 1957 New York City, amongst the chaos of the Cold War, Rudolf Abel is charged with Spying for the Soviet Union. To give him a fair trial, insurance lawyer James B. Donovan is asked to defend him, and he commits himself to the job under the principle that the accused deserve a vigorous defense. Along the way, the CIA attempt to get information from him regarding Abel, but Donovan refuses to violate his client's confidentiality. Abel is convicted, but Donovan manages to convince to court to spare him the death penalty because he might prove useful for a future prisoner exchange. He is sentenced to 30 years in prison. Donovan attempts to appeal the conviction based on a lack of search warrant for Abel's home, and fails. The prejudice and hatred from the United States lead to Donovan's family being harassed to the point of gun shots being fired at their house. Meanwhile, CIA spy plane pilot Gary Powers is shot down over the USSR. He is captured, tortured, and sentenced to ten years in confinement and three in prison. Donovan then receives a letter urging him to come to the USSR which hints at a prisoner exchange of the two. He goes to Berlin unofficially to negotiate the business and is directed to Vogel, representative of the Attorney General of the German Democratic Republic. Vogel seeks to swap Abel for an American graduate student named Pryor, who was arrested in East Germany not too long before. The CIA wants Donovan to forget about Pryor, but then Donovan insists that the swap be done for both Pryor and Powers. Eventually, he is successful, and the exchange takes place over the Glienicke Bridge. The United States publicly acknowledges Donovan for negotiating the deal, which rehabilitates his image.

The Coen Brothers' contribution: When the Coen Brothers heard of Steven Spielberg's spy story, they came to him with a very heightened interest in collaboration. Most of the script was already drafted by Matt Charman, but the Coen Brothers certainly contributed greatly to it. All of the dialogue is crisp, and the movie is packed with that distinctly Coen touch of humor and irony, especially in later scenes where Donovan is secretly negotiating with both the Soviets and the East Germans (while sick with a very sniffly cold). For a while, everyone seems to be at a stubborn standstill. The movie is also witty throughout--Donovan can find humor in almost any situation, which helps to ease some of the seriousness of the movie, and every time Abel is asked if he's worried in some of the most desperate situations, he remains unemotional, and asks, "would it help?"

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