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Berlin Film Anthology: BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015)

50 Shades of Berlin Grey

When playing any number of trivia games, the subject falls onto Berlin movies - not sure BRIDGE OF SPIES WOULD qualify in the top 10 answers. Nevertheless, it has historical relevance of the Cold War, between the Soviet Union and the USA. Directed by Spielberg depicting a story based on real events, of a lawyer James B. Donovan representing a Russian spy.

It’ll make you laugh, hold your breath and question which side you're on. Donovan was a protagonist of integrity, grace and humour - a fitting role for Mr Hanks. He plays a family man and a highly skilled lawyer with scruples, using his proficient lawyer negotiations to facilitate an international mediation. Defending Rudolf Abel, played by Mark Rylance, the charming villain for all intents and purposes.

Shout outs for famous spots like Ku’dam, CheckPoint Charlie and Friedrichstraase, viewing the destroyed images of Berlin from how we see it today bring even the poorest math skilled person a shock just at how little time has gone since it was that bad. There weren’t any €1M apartments overlooking the Spree back then. 73 years later, the city has moved on from war-torn and dilapidated to “poor but sexy”.

The film is filled with one liners, one especially used in gentle banter. When central character Abel was asked if he was worried, his response of 3 words rang a million bells, now more than ever. His reply, “Would it help?” begged the question.

The juxtapositions are consistent, visually it can be seen through the colour used in scenes set in New York compared to the 50 shades of Berlin grey. In addition to that, the destruction of Berlin, compared to the suburban heaven of Donovan’s lifestyle. The final yin and yang moment of the 2 distinct train rides taken by Donovan. The first in Berlin, taking the S-Bahn, wooden seats, practical aesthetic and noisy as hell - overlooking the wall and those that would risk their lives to be on the West side of it. Flip to the yang, the final scene of New York, trains of comfort with no violence, the sounds of happy children playing in the wholesome green metropolis of Manhattan.

The wrinkle in the film for me would be the “overwhelming evidence” against Abel that the audience was not privy to, we even see him destroying evidence in the scene. Additionally, a speed through the scenes of side storyline involving a US student in the wrong place in the wrong time in East Berlin.

All in all, another Spielberg x Hanks suspense filled triumph, for an easy watch film for a Sunday night. Enjoy the history, thrill and great acting of a great “Berlin movie”.

Jennifer Chuks