Bridge of Spies: Conservative Box Office Twist?

I’m looking forward to seeing Bridge of Spies , the latest Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks film (in theaters this weekend). Sure, Hollywood isn’t known to be a bastion of historical accuracy, and yes, Spielberg films can be overly formulaic, but it’s still a big-budget Cold War thriller. How bad could it be?

The story follows James B. Donovan (Hanks), the lawyer who defended Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and helped negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, the American U-2 pilot shot down over the U.S.S.R. in 1960. In addition to the usual big-stakes political negotiations between superpowers, Donovan faces pressure from his own country’s political hysteria toward communism.  One lawyer stresses to Jim the importance “that this man is seen as getting a fair shake” since “American justice will on trial.” 

Donovan contributes more than just a good show. He tells off a prying American agent with a speech that might pass for a distilled version of Alexis de Tocqueville in one spunky scene: “The Rule Book. We call it the Constitution,” he explains. “And we agree to the rules, and that’s what makes us Americans. It’s all that makes us Americans.”

This shot of idealism isn’t always seen among the cloak & dagger motifs of the Cold War genre. Hollywood isn’t usually this friendly toward conservative principles like this either.  We’ll see how representative this scene actually is for the film, but regardless, it is nice to hear people talk about the U.S. Constitution in a favorable manner.


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