This was a really good movie. A friend recommended it to me, and I thought, Ok, sure, but when I actually saw it I just remember thinking afterwards, Wow, this is a movie that makes you think! In fact, I’ll need to watch it again because there were some key points pf the film that went over my head.
While I won’t get into great plot detail I will just say that this movie is still relevant today not just because we studied the Cold War in world history/geography class, but because of the current political climate. Now, normally on this blog, I try my best to stay away from discussing anything related to political parties, but with the current political climate and the Russia-U.S. issue regarding elections, it just made sense to watch this movie. The film Bridge of Spies takes place during the Cold War, and is about a lawyer who represents Rudolf, a Russian spy being held captive in the U.S. Tom Hanks’ character, James, decides to help him through the trial so that he can become free again, and also so that the U.S. pilot being held captive in the Soviet Union, Francis Gary Powers, can gain his freedom again. Even though James wants to have dialogue with Rudolf, everyone thinks he is supporting “the enemy”, but James insists on a mutual relationship between the U.S. and Russia. Meanwhile, the Berlin Wall is dividing East and West Berlin, separating families and loved ones from one another and forcing people to flee their homes. Even with all this going on, James insists on having dialogue with the German and Russian leaders so that the American and Russian prisoners can return to their respective countries.
While I personally don’t have extensive experience or research on the Cold War, I remember reading a volume of The New Human Revolution, by educator and humanist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda. He met with the Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin, and even with leaders in the Soviet Union who didn’t agree with everything Mr. Ikeda said. Mr. Ikeda, like James, came to the Soviet Union as a way for the countries to facilitate dialogue with one another rather than always using armed force as the answer to every diplomatic problem. He asked the leaders of the Soviet Union and China if they were planning on going to war with one another, and each leader told him to communicate to the other side that they did not have plans to go to war with one another.
Communication is a powerful tool in our society, and it always has been. When leaders do not communicate with one another because they are worried that the other is going to blow the other leader’s country up, people make assumptions and shut off future ties of diplomacy. It can also have an impact on children: in one powerful scene of Bridge of Spies, James’s son is sitting in class and the teacher shows them one of those ads during the time that encouraged kids to “duck and cover” so that they wouldn’t get radiation poisoning from any bomb that the Soviet army could potentially throw at the U.S. Then James finds his son sitting on the bathroom floor and reading a book about bomb shelter preparedness because he thinks the Russians are going to bomb the Americans any minute. This is why communication is important because without face to face dialogue about what needs to be said, propaganda can continue to propagate and brainwash people, and moreover cause people to have this irrational fear about other people in other countries. I think in terms of politics and international diplomacy today, talking to one another face to face is needed more than ever if we want to bring about world peace.
Bridge of Spies. 2015. 2 hr 22 min. Rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language.