Bridge of Spies (Walt Disney Studios, 2015)

Cold War spy movie from Steven Spielberg starring Tom Hanks? What’s not to like? Based on a true story, Hanks plays Brooklyn lawyer, James Donovan. Specializing in insurance law, Donovan is tasked with defending a Soviet spy captured in Brooklyn. In the end Donovan negotiates the maze of the spy world of the US, the USSR and the East Germans to facilitate the exchange of prisoners accused of espionage.

This film doesn’t assault the senses with needless explosions and car chases. Instead it delves into the shadows on the two sides of the newly constructed Berlin Wall.

Personally, the cinematography sent me back to my trip through Checkpoint Charlie and into East Berlin in 1980. Without tether I strolled the streets of the city which stood in stark contrast to it’s counterpart of West Berlin. The west was modern and rebuilding from the ravages of WWII. The east was bleak, drab and depressing.
Defenses preventing unauthorized crossing of the wall existed only on the east side. A clearer picture of freedom versus oppression would be difficult to find.

The movie was made better by the presentation of moral actions and personal characteristics.

Donovan risked the deal he was told to make by the CIA in order to add the release of a college student being unjustly held by the East Germans. I’m not sure his motto of “All lives matter” was added due to the current climate and talk in America. But it certainly was apt and communicated an important part of the movie.

Three times Donovan asked the Soviet spy why he did not worry. Each time the calm man responded, “Would it help?”

Facing criminal conviction and death, worry was not a part of his coping mechanism. His responses reminded me of Jesus’ words, Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life (Matthew 6:27)? 

Two train rides by Donovan presented a subtle glimpse of the difference between a nation of freedom and a nation of totalitarianism. The first ride was in Berlin on a track that ran parallel to the Berlin Wall. Passengers on the train looked out of their windows in horror as a small group of men attempted to scale the wall and escape the east for the west. East German snipers gunned them down and they lay dead at the base of the wall.

Later Donovan was on a train in Brooklyn. Looking outside his window, he witnessed young boys running and playing by jumping fences in the neighborhood. The contrast was telling.

Perhaps this movie should leave us with the question as to what sort of society are we going to be. Will we be a nation in which kids run and play with freedom? Or will we be a nation that builds walls which deny the liberties of life?

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