Bridge of Spies captures the Cold War in all its murky and paranoid detail. Throughout its running time, it paints a striking and often accurate picture of life under this tense and morally gray period in history. The film commendably shows the audience vastly different points of view of the conflict. In one of the picture’s most harrowing scenes, Speilberg shows stock footage of the devastation of Hiroshima to a class of young children.
The scene is indicative of two things. Firstly, Speilberg can encapsulate the mood of a period in mere seconds and thus remind the viewer why he is still one of our most interesting and relevant filmmakers. Secondly, the scene shows that propaganda, no matter how illogical or foolhardy can even affect the most innocent in society. This latter idea is most strikingly represented in a later scene where James Donavon (Tom Hanks) is listening to his son expound upon his understanding of nuclear bombs and the Soviet Union.
The conflict is articulated in other subtle and interesting ways. In the exchange scene near the end, Donavon observes Soviet Snipers, which he seems surprised to see. His commanding officer points out that the American have snipers too. At that moment, Speilberg showcases that the Cold War can simply be summarised as a series of presumptions on the part of two powerful nations.
The film is visually at its finest in its third act when it takes place within the ruined and decaying East Berlin. Speilberg in a tracking shot shows us the building of the Berlin wall and the devastation that it caused for so many people in such a potent manner. However, Bridge of Spies is best in its dramatic moments, where conversations carry the weight of nations.