Bridge of Spies

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Bridge of Spies Movie Poster Image
Cold War thriller focuses on tension over action.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 135 minutes
 Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 13 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Integrity is a major theme. It isn't always easy to do your duty or complete the tasks that people give you, but that doesn't mean they're not worth doing; it's important to do your best and stick to your values. Negotiating is a tough challenge, but you can stay resolute in your position while treating your adversaries with courtesy and respect.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Donovan is a lawyer who holds his duty to his client sacred, even if that makes him unpopular -- especially because he's very aware that, at the height of the Cold War, the rule of law and the Constitution are two of the main differences between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Violence

A prisoner is interrogated harshly; viewers see him clearly sleep-deprived and shivering from being splashed in the face with buckets of cold water. Another scene shows people being shot to death as they try to flee East Germany over the Berlin Wall.

Sex
Language

Infrequent swearing includes a couple of uses of "f--k" (during a tense scene), plus "son of a bitch" and "goddamn hell."

Consumerism

One of the main characters prefers to drink Nescafe.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes in many scenes (accurate for the era), and one uses a pipe during a dramatic moment. A few sequences take place in bars, though the main characters aren't always drinking. Other moments feature characters toasting with scotch or brandy during tense discussions or to seal an important deal.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies is a tense, taut Cold War thriller inspired by real-life events. Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, an upstanding American insurance lawyer who's assigned to defend a Soviet spy captured in Brooklyn, events that lead to a hostage exchange. Expect occasional swearing (including a couple of "f--k"s during a tense scene, plus "son of a bitch" and "goddamn hell"), a fair amount of era-accurate smoking, celebratory toasting, and some brief, intense violence -- most notably scenes in which a prisoner is harshly interrogated and others in which people are shot while trying to flee East Germany.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byterra100 October 19, 2015

Worth your time - great film

I very much liked this film. There are a lot of positive role models in this movie, and the backdrop is about families and the worth of human beings. I thou... Continue reading
Adult Written byDarylTheStudent March 5, 2016

Bridge of Spies

Good movie about the exchange of a USSR spy for an American pilot and student. Parents should note that in this movie, there are a few f-words, as well as a pl... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 19, 2015

Very good Steven Spielberg movie, if your kids can get past some parts.

This movie is not very action packed. Let's get that out the way. If your kid has came to see a very exciting movie. You might be kind of disappointed. But... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byThe Reel Aisle Seat October 24, 2015

For a movie, Good. For a Spielberg/Hanks movie, somewhat disappointing.

"Bridge of Spies" is based on the true story of New York lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), who is sent to Berlin to negotiate the release of U.S. pilo... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BRIDGE OF SPIES, James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is a skilled insurance lawyer who's asked to take on an unusual, challenging case: defending a captured Soviet spy (Mark Rylance) at the height of the Cold War. And although his involvement with the case makes him unpopular, Donovan is determined to make sure his client gets a fair trial, even if he has to appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court. Then, when U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down over the Soviet Union, Donovan must take on an even more difficult and dangerous assignment: Go to East Berlin to negotiate a prisoner exchange.

Is it any good?

Written by Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen, this film crackles with crispness and clarity. Director Steven Spielberg knows how to keep viewers on the edge of their seats; case in point, Bridge of Spies' opening, which will leave you waiting for a big explosion or defining crash of the kind most often seen in espionage tales. But what happens instead isn't a prototypical setting-into-motion plot device but more a peeling of the proverbial onion skin, moving the plot through the first of many curves and hard lefts.

The period set design bottles 1950s/60s New York's essence, as well as Berlin in the latter half of the movie. If there's any quibble, it's that there's so much story to pack in that a few characters get the short shrift, notably Donovan's wife (ably played by Amy Ryan) and one of his law firm partners (Alan Alda). But ultimately one of the most compelling things about Bridge of Spies is that it truly feels of a different time, devoid of the usual pointed emotional cues and heavy backgrounding that clutter most movies these days. Which isn't to say that you won't be pulled into this spy drama, because you will be. Or that you'll figure out what's going to happen and what the film is about, because you won't. What you will find is a movie stripped bare to its essentials: the retelling of a story based on real-life events about how an insurance lawyer became instrumental in negotiating one of the most important spy-swaps of the Cold War.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Bridge of Spies depicts the Cold War. Teens: Did you know much about this period of history before watching? How could you find out more?

  • How accurate do you think the movie is to what actually happened? Why might filmmakers decide to tweak facts in some cases?

  • How did the movie's violent scenes affect you? Did they have more or less impact than those you've seen in more action-heavy thrillers? Why do you think that is?

  • Is Donovan a role model? Why or why not? Does he seem like someone who'd naturally be the subject of a big Hollywood movie?

  • How do the characters in Bridge of Spies demonstrate integrity? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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