The Corner

Culture

Journey into a Lived Past

I recommend the new movie Bridge of Spies — starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer trying to broker a famous spy swap in the early 1960s — as a loving and realistic recreation of that era. Some movies certainly invest as much as this one does in art direction and set decoration, but end up as airless museum pieces. This one comes across as a genuinely lived past.

It’s a spy movie, yes, but one that’s more interested in character and emotion than in stereotypical heroics; so it’s actually a lot more interesting and exciting as a drama than more clichéd spy films are. The script makes a couple of feints toward politically correct moral equivalence between the West and the Soviet Bloc, but they appear to be just that – feints, to win some progressive street cred for the film. If you watch this movie closely, though, what comes across most strongly is how much director Steven Spielberg loves America. Contrast two scenes in which Tom Hanks, from a moving train, watches people climb partitions. In one scene, refugees are shot trying to flee over the newly built Berlin Wall. In the other, New York kids scurry over a fence into a neighboring yard. Howard Zinn liked to say you can’t be neutral on a moving train; and in this film, the Hanks character certainly isn’t neutral. One of these ways of life is much closer to the way people ought to live than the other – and he, and the audience, have no hesitation in saying which side it is.

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