Monday, November 02, 2015

Monday Movie ~ Bridge of Spies

We saw Bridge of Spies last weekend. We both declared it "a very good movie" - which is to be expected with Steven Spielberg directing. My own yardstick is to note how many times my attention wanders, especially during a two and a half hour film like this. I didn't wander off mentally once, even though the movie's subject matter wasn't of great interest to me, nor is the film's leading actor, Tom Hanks, a favourite of mine. (Yep, I'm the one).

Tom Hanks played lawyer James Donovan, the guy who agreed to defend a captured Russian spy known as Rudolf Abel, played by British actor Mark Rylance. American pilot Gary Powers, whose CIA U-2 spy plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over Soviet Union airspace is not, contrary to my expectations, at front and centre of the film's story. The character being celebrated, really, is James Donovan, without whose shrewdness, foresight, tact and diplomacy the story might have ended very differently.

For more detail see review by Brian Tallerico at and/or a good comparison of the facts and the film at History vs Hollywood website.

I knew little of the events depicted in this film. They were no doubt reported in Britain, but must not have attracted my attention - I was otherwise engaged in the early sixties anyway. I first knew of the name Gary Powers from a painting my now husband did back in the 1960s. I've mentioned it before in earlier posts - see below.

As I wrote above, Bridge of Spies isn't really about Gary Powers, his story provides background and purpose, but remains almost incidental. Husband's only criticism of the film was that there was little, if any, mention of the terrible time the people, the press and media in general gave to the wife of Gary Powers throughout that period.

From an archived blog post:
The Powers Trial

An oil painting by Himself - my husband. He painted it sometime in the early 1960s and called it The Powers Trial. When I first noticed this painting it was stored in a closet with a pile of others a young Himself had worked on many years ago. I liked it immediately for the shapes and colours. I later discovered that the main figure represents Francis Gary Powers, the U.2 pilot shot down while flying over Soviet Union airspace on May 1, 1960, sparking one of the greatest international crises of the Cold War. Husband said that for some reason the trial of Powers had affected him deeply, and this painting was more of a doodle than a serious painting about it. He just started drawing shapes on canvas one day and ended up sketching directly with oil colour.

I'm not sure the detail will show clearly on computer screen, but the scales of justice appear in the centre, some heads of observers in the background, representing the eyes of the world upon the proceedings, and a small depiction of Powers' wife in the lower left square. The figure to the left represents an attorney.

Gary Powers was born on 17 August 1929 in Jenkins, Kentucky. On the date Powers was shot down, 1 May 1960, his natal Pluto at 18* Cancer was being opposed by transiting Saturn at 18* Capricorn - such an opposition between two powerful planets might well be significant here. Saturn represents the law, limitation, and possibly imprisonment. Pluto is the modern ruler of Scorpio, said to represent, among other things, secrets and spying.

When Powers returned to the USA (as part of an East/West spy-swap) he was criticised for not ensuring that the revolutionary plane was destroyed, or killing himself with a suicide pin or pill. Powers was cold-shouldered by his former employers at the CIA. He died in 1977 at the age of 47 when a TV news helicopter he was piloting crashed in Los Angeles. On May 1, 2000, U.S. officials presented Powers' family with his posthumously awarded Prisoner-of-War Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the National Defense Service Medal.
Info. from


mike said...

Powers is emblematic of "no good deed goes unpunished". I can only assume that he served as a euphemism for America's military-CIA embarrassment of the incident at that time. It's interesting that some individual's lives are fret with difficulties caused by outer negative influences, though the individual is of inherent, high quality. "Win one for the gipper."

I haven't seen the movie and probably won't until it comes to Netflix sometime in the 2020s. A neighbor saw it last weekend and praised it.

Your sidebar quote contains, "If the free world is not faithful to its own moral code...". The free world has ALWAYS been faithful to its moral code, and at times, that code has contained greater immorality than other times. I'd say that the morals of the free world currently has much darkness and corruption to contend.

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.” Isaac Asimov

mike (again) said...

P.S. - I often mention in comments that a majority of Americans work for corporations that Americans love to hate...many of these employees receive monetary rewards for their corrosive, anti-consumer initiatives. The Powers-U2 event is much the same. The USAF-CIA-NSA, humans in those agencies, in efforts of self-preservation, sacrificed Powers.

Twilight said...

mike + (again) ~ Agreed about the "moral code" thing, at least as it relates to the now. James Donovan's words, though, were specifically relating to certain events in 1962, I think - about how captured Russian spy Rudolf Abel was going to be treated. If it hadn't been for the lawyer's foresight, and his insight about Abel's personality, and that the job the spy had been doing was no worse than that America's spies were involved in, Abel would have been executed and there'd have been no opportunity to do the "swaps" which, due to the lawyer's shrewd negotiation, released Powers later, along with an American student also captured, though not a spy.

Sonny G said...

The CIA is just plain scary, in my opinion. Most of us will never know what really goes on or why..

One season of Homeland opened my eyes wider than they have ever been and once open, you cant go back in your thinking. Movies and even TV almost seems to have phycic moments about the inner working of issues- or maybe they have their own SPIES:)

Sonny G said...


Mike , my taurine arrived yesterday.. so my first dose was at 8 this morning.

I'll keep you updated as to what occurs for me..

thanks again

Sonny G said...

Not sure when the us mail started running on Sunday but that's who brought my package..

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ As Edgar Allan Poe wrote once in a short story: “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” Where the CIA is involved we should reduce that half to maybe 1/20th or even less! It has to be that way, I suppose, but it's scary stuff, and open to much manipulation and deviation from original intents.

mike (again) said...

Sonny - I think we would all be dismayed and horrified, if we knew how our tax dollars are being spent. The little that I am aware of makes me sad and angry. I recently read that rendition was ruled to be legal, as long as the USA tortured off American soil...lovely!

Re taurine...I left two links for you to read on last Friday's comments.