Very well done, well cast, well-acted and nicely paced historical drama about two connected real life events, one the story of private lawyer James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) negotiating the release of two prisoners during the Cold War, that of Francis Gary Powers (the U.S. Air Force U-2 pilot whose plane was shot down in 1960 when it was flying over the Soviet Union) from the KBG, and of American student Frederic Pryor (in the wrong place at the wrong time) from East Germany. The name of the film is in homage to the Glienicke Bridge where part of the prisoner exchange occurs.
As part of that exchange Donovan is supposed to exchange a Soviet spy caught in New York City and arrested, a man prior to the exchange the government approached Donovan about representing in court as a defense attorney, a spy named Rudolf Abel (played by Mark Rylance, a role he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). Really the film was at first a courtroom drama, of Donovan trying to get the best trial, put forth the best case for his client despite a doubtful family, a meddling CIA, an unsupportive judge, and a rather hostile American public. That alone could have been a good movie, but then we get the Cold War intrigue in East Berlin, with Donovan acting in the best interests of his new client, Powers (and despite government objections, doing what he can for both Abel and for Pryor, the latter a person barely on the government’s radar).
The film did a good job of really having two entirely different films, a court room drama and Cold War spy intrigue, but they were linked by Tom Hank’s performance, of his character’s shrewd negotiation skills, great ability to read people, and his unwavering dedication to his clients, whomever they are. Skills that got the best trial possible for Abel also served to help Donovan get the best deal possible for the two Americans held in captivity.
Great ensemble cast, excellent cinematography (especially the East Berlin scenes), really great late 1950s, early 1960s feel, there was good tension, some great emotional performances, light touches of humor, just all around an excellent historical drama.