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Bridge of spies

Bridge of Spies – A Must See With Older Grandkids

By Ranny Levy – President and Founder of KidsFirst!

This drama, directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring Tom Hanks, takes place in the late 50s, during the Cold War. Hanks play a lawyer, James B. Donovan who is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “I don’t know how Steven Spielberg (director) does it but, he makes these stories come to life and helps you connect with the characters so that you cry, laugh and almost fall of your seat because it’s so intense!” Tre’ana H. adds, “Steven Spielberg, as a director, is one amazing fellow. He is known for so many films, but this one takes the hat off.  This movie is filled with drama and thrills and will keep you sitting straight up in your seat.” Jorge L. comments, “I strongly believe this movie will be a contender for Best Picture award at the Academy Awards.” Willie J. wraps it up, “It was worth the three year wait. Steven Spielberg has come back with one of his finest films ever, quite easily in his top 10. Bridge of Spies is an engaging journey that entrances you in its story and doesn’t let you go. ”  See their full reviews below.

Bridge of Spies

Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

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This film is nothing other than legendary and an immediate classic. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are back together again, to make another incredible dramatic and genius film. With historical facts, a heartfelt and dramatic story, this film is not only bound to be an Oscar contender, but I think this film may swoop any other film this year, and win the film of the year award.

This is a drama. Although it cracks jokes here and there, it really is primarily mainly a dramatic re-enactment of an historical event. The story itself is a large adventure with action and intense scenes filled with various human emotions and unpredictable actions that keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.

The story starts in the middle of the Cold War, in Brooklyn. A man believed to be a Soviet Spy is arrested and, because of American law, he is supposed to get a fair trial. The man responsible for defending him in court starts noticing things and instead of just making it look like a fair trial, he actually tries to help this ‘spy’ get the right sort of action.

I don’t know how Steven Spielberg (director) does it but, he makes these stories come to life and helps you connect with the characters so that you cry, laugh and almost fall of your seat because it’s so intense! The camera shots explore the scene from a variety of angles and go way beyond just showing one element. With each camera shot, you are prone to say, “nice shot.” For example, in one scene, they are on a bridge and, instead of showing a sky high view as you might expect, he shows it from the prospective of the people. It is snowing; you can’t see the other side or the people very well. You can just see a few lights and it is just so perfect. If you are a fan of Spielberg’s work as I am, you will be happy to see some of his famous wide shots which help scenes seem to float into each other.

As for the acting, Tom Hanks has done many roles and this is truly one of his best. He plays a character that does so many dangerous things and does them for a few people that he doesn’t even know. He shows extraordinary skill portraying this character, bringing out emotions we can relate to. Full and heartfelt, with each scene his character gets better and better to the point that you are just sitting there with your eyes wide and forgetting to breathe thinking, “What is he going to do next?”. When he is upset, you’re upset. When he is terrified, you’re terrified. He is perfect for this role and this is easily one of his best work.

For this film, I cannot choose a favorite scene. Each scene is so important in its own way. Each scene is so spectacularly done. Each scene is so entertaining whether it’s funny, intense or dramatic One of the scenes that was most impressive is when we see an American spy flying a plane, 70,000 feet over Russian territory. He is gathering intelligence and hoping to get some information about nuclear defenses. His plane is being attacked and the problem is, he was supposed to go down with the plane. The cockpit shatters and he goes into free fall. I love the scene because it looks like he is falling from 70,000 feet at an alarming rate. The execution of this is outstanding. It is clear and intense, which is why I love it so much.

The subject of this film is rather mature like the scenes near East Berlin during the time the Berlin Wall was being constructed. A part of Berlin is cut off from food and everything else. There are many other scenes featuring the impact of the Cold War. Because of these, I recommend this for ages 11 to 18. I enthusiastically give it 5 out of 5 stars because this film is legendary. It is mind blowing in so many parts and, I believe it is one of the best films I have ever seen.

Bridge of Spies 

By Tre’ana H.,  KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Bridge of Spies is a fantastic film that is based upon a true story that took place during the Cold War.  Steven Spielberg, as a director, is one amazing fellow. He is known for so many films, but this one takes the hat off.  This movie is filled with drama and thrills and will keep you sitting straight up in your seat.  You will want to know what is going to happen next because there is so much going on in this film. I got a little lost in the story but, once I got back on track, it was astonishing to watch the government in action.  James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) two-time Academy Award winner is phenomenal.  He is outstanding in whatever role he plays and he always commits and fulfills his obligation with greatness, as well as his sly comments.  The costume is formal and direct. 

The film tells the story of an American lawyer, James B. Donovan who is asked by the CIA during the Cold War to represent Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) who is a spy that has been captured in the United States. He does not reveal any information to James because he wants him to have a fair trial. The twist to this involves an American pilot, Francis Gary (Austin Stowell), who is caught when on a mission in the Soviet Union. What a mess?

My favorite part is when James’s son Roger Donovan (Noah Schnapp) is filling up the bath tub and sink with water. He is doing this because, if there was a war of any type or danger, they will always have source of water for drinking and washing. I think that this is very smart and yet hilarious since the war hasn’t even start.

The message of the film is always treat someone fair because you never know when you may have to compromise or make an even exchange.  You should always treat people with dignity and respect.

I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 because it is challenging to follow the storyline and it does contain some violent scenes. I enjoyed watching the film even though I am not big on spy movies.  I give this film 4 out of 5 Stars because it is very informative and  I became more informed.

Bridge of Spies

By Willie J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

It was worth the three year wait. Steven Spielberg has come back with one of his finest films ever, quite easily in his top 10. Bridge of Spies is an engaging journey that entrances you in its story and doesn’t let you go. Led by Tom Hanks, this movie about an American lawyer who is recruited to lead trade negotiations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, is a story they didn’t teach you in history class. But, it’s a story you won’t forget. 

One thing I have to get out of the way before I burst, is my love for Mark Rylance. He plays Abel, a Soviet spy who is caught, put on trial (with unfair treatment) and then used as bait to get back an American spy that was caught by the Soviets. Mark Rylance is one of the world’s greatest actors and I do hope this movie puts him on a bigger radar. The subtle depth to which he plays Abel goes so smoothly with the more humorous and determined way in which Tom Hanks plays James Donovan. It is a chemistry that can’t afford to be missed. Together, they lead this cast that also includes Alan Alda and Amy Ryan.

The most essential parts of this film are the writing and cinematography. Matt Charman and the Coen brothers have truly outdone themselves. The Coens, as you may know, have written such classics like No Country For Old Men, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. They are versatile writers who you wouldn’t think to have written this movie. Because, despite their versatility, this doesn’t seem like a movie where their darkly humorous and violent style could be intertwined. But I think it is forgotten that the Coens are masters of plot. The plot of this movie is so well structured and put together, and flows seamlessly with Spielberg’s direction. Furthermore, there is STILL plenty of their witty, banter-type, sarcastic dialogue, that provides more than enough gems of laughter. I must praise their innate ability to have well placed exposition, and not shower us with too much of it. The story is always moving, and is never at a stand still. It transitions from theme to theme and point to point so smoothly. The bridge scenes are arguably the most essential because they get us from place to place in the plot, and the writing takes us there with a serene intention.

To add to the brilliance, Janusz Kaminski (Cinematographer) creates beautiful and effective color palettes to convey different tones so well. They’re obvious enough to have an effect on us and discrete enough not to be distracting. The mix of blues and greys and dark and light make for a more interesting watch, and each choice of cinematography is motivated. Of course, we have the patented Spielberg lighting designs (which never get old) and his trademark close-up zoom ins, and they are welcome.

This movie is very old fashioned in some ways. Unlike many movies today that try to give us a message or say something essential or bombard us with themes to mull over, this is just a story. It’s an extremely well told story, with some nice themes scattered across, and some history being taught – nothing more or less. It’s a mixture of a blockbuster and “artful” film, if you will. It is a movie I knew would be sensational, considering it is a collaboration between Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and the Coens. These four legends have each done their jobs well, as usual, and their talents and signature styles mesh well as one. This is model filmmaking.

I give this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars because the pacing is slow. There are moments where it could have sped up and further utilized Thomas Newman’s score (which is beautiful, but underused). I also feel the ending isn’t satisfying enough and could have been much more. Still, this movie is a great experience and it’s one you don’t want to miss. Luckily, it can be seen at a local theater near you.

Bridge of Spies

By Jorge L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

I strongly believe this movie will be a contender for Best Picture award at the Academy Awards.

The world is on the brink of war and one man has the power to maintain peace. His name is James Donovan, an insurance lawyer from Brooklyn, New York. The year is 1957 and the Cold War is in full swing. When a Soviet spy is caught in the United States, Donovan is hired to defend him in court. This all seems pretty easy but the anti-communists assume that he is guilty and, by association, James is also considered a communist. This puts his and his family’s lives in jeopardy as well as his career. Meanwhile, in the USSR, U.S. spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers is shot down while on a reconnaissance mission. These unlikely circumstances allow for both nations to be put into positions to negotiate the release of their counterpart. This leads to great debate on both sides.

This film is directed by Steven Spielberg and, it is great seeing him back in the director’s seat. With Spielberg, comes his famous style of shot composition and setting. This is evident from the very beginning. The cinematography is grainy, giving it the feel of being  filmed in the late 50s. Also, we get small glimpses of 50s Brooklyn as well as Soviet-controlled East Berlin. The color scheme really reflects the emotion that the audience should be feeling. For example, in moments of great tension and anxiety, the colors are less saturated and have a gloomy feel to it. All this makes it clear that Spielberg is back and ready to work.

The Story is based on a true story and with something so iconic as the Cold War and the U-2 incident, it has to be accurate and persuasive. The writers have created a script embedded with a 50s feel. The dialogue also gives a Cold War feeling. For example, one part of the film depicts Donovan’s son talking about preparing for a nuclear attack. Unless you personally experienced this era, it is hard to relate to the fear that children had at that time. However, this part allowed me to feel the what kids must have been feeling. The writers divided this film into two parts and this may have not been the best idea because, at times the movie ran on too long.

This film demonstrates the emotions felt during the Cold war while also allowing you to cheer on the defendant of this Soviet spy. With such a sensitive topic as war, it is clear why this movie is rated PG-13. Because of that, some profanity and the need for having some prior historical knowledge about the era, I recommend this movie to ages 13 to 18. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. I would have given it a 5th star if it hadn’t dragged on.



Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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