Bridge of Spies Parent Guide

Donovan's moral character is a strong positive message about avoiding the temptation of falling prey to situational ethics.

Overall B+

Lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place when he is recruited by the CIA to defend a Soviet spy (Mark Rylance) in the hopes of negotiating the release of a captured American pilot. This movie is directed by Steven Spielberg.

Release date October 16, 2015

Violence C
Sexual Content A
Profanity D+
Substance Use C

Why is Bridge of Spies rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Bridge of Spies PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language.

Run Time: 142 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

The spy thriller genre has deep roots dating back to the Cold War. However most of those early movies belonged to fictitious heroes like James Bond. Fifty years later much of the clandestine work has been brought out of the shadows and we have more details about some of the real people involved in this curious career.

It’s 1957 and Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is captured by FBI agents in Brooklyn. He is charged with spying for the Soviet Union and, according to US law, is entitled to legal counsel. Not surprisingly it’s tough to find a lawyer willing to defend an alleged spy. Finally James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) agrees to speak for the man that is quickly rising to the top of list of America’s most hated criminals. Facing incredible bias and pressure from CIA agents, other legal cohorts and even the judge assigned to the case, Donovan struggles to maintain his principled stance in support of the Sixth Amendment and it’s guaranty of the accused’s right to a fair trail. It’s a fight that even involves his family after a drive-by-shooting leaves their home riddled with bullets.

Eventually Donovan manages to avoid a death sentence for his client, who is instead sentenced to decades in jail. The basis of the master lawyer’s argument is that the United States needs to demonstrate its commitment to fair and impartial justice for all, topped off with a note that with the increasing Cold War tensions, the country may one day need a Soviet spy to exchange for a US prisoner.

His forward thinking proves valuable. Three years later, in 1960, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down while flying a U2 mission over the USSR. Captured by the Soviets, Powers is sentenced to ten years in prison. But the greater worry is the information the pilot may share under interrogation. Again, Donovan is called upon—this time to broker a deal that would exchange Rudolf Abel for the return of Gary Powers. Going one step further, Donovan also explores the possibility of bargaining for the release of Frederick Pryor (Will Rogers), a young US student studying in Berlin who was arrested on no specific charges by East German police.

Donovan’s moral character is a strong positive message about avoiding the temptation of falling prey to situational ethics. The man is determined to see Abel receive the same right to justice that any other criminal would be entitled to, even if it puts his own career and safety at risk. Yet even with this powerful statement for teens and adults, there are moments of content that parents and teachers will want to note. Profanities, although infrequent, include a mix of mild swearwords and two unnecessary sexual expletives. In one scene a character looks out a train window while it passes the newly erected Berlin Wall and sees people being shot as they attempt to scale the barrier. As well, tobacco use is seen throughout this period film, as is frequent alcohol consumption.

Make no mistake, Bridge of Spies is not an action movie. Rather it builds tension out of such ordinary things as a close-up of a telephone surrounded by people waiting for it to ring. That may sound dull, but as you are pulled into the human lives that make up these historical events, you understand the sound of that bell might just prove to be a death knell. Featuring highly capable actors working with a script that doesn’t rush through the story’s complex web of negotiations and intrigue, this engaging film works well to remind us that justice, though often not convenient, should at least be consistent.

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Billy Magnussen, Amy Ryan, Eve Hewson. Running time: 142 minutes. Theatrical release October 16, 2015. Updated

Bridge of Spies
Rating & Content Info

Why is Bridge of Spies rated PG-13? Bridge of Spies is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some violence and brief strong language.

Violence: A short scene (shot from a distance) depicts people attempting to scale the Berlin Wall and being shot as they do so. A girl is sitting in her home when suddenly bullets begin ripping through windows and walls. A captured military pilot is shown being subjected to forceful interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation and being splashed with cold water. Military personnel are briefed on using a suicide device should they be captured. Law enforcement officers forcefully enter a person’s apartment. A pilot’s plane is shot down—the tense scene has him plummeting to the ground while attempting to eject from the aircraft. Scenes depict soldiers harassing, interrogating and restraining people. Verbal altercations are heard.

Sexual Content: People embrace and kiss.

Language: A sexual expletive is uttered twice. Infrequent scatological and other mild profanities are used, along with terms of deity.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Frequent portrayals of tobacco and alcohol use are shown in a historical context.

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More parents' guide for Bridge of Spies after the break...

Bridge of Spies Parents' Guide

One of the main points of this movie is the idea of treating others the way you would want to be treated. James Donovan was determined to provide Soviet spy Rudolf Abel with sound legal counsel. Others disagreed, feeling he was an exception to the Sixth Amendment. How do you feel about that? When might it be justified to make exceptions to the Sixth Amendment?

Is spying just another “job” (as it is referred to in this movie)? Is it a legitimate use of tax dollars? When is spying justified? When is it not?

News About "Bridge of Spies"

Bridge of Spies was perviously titled, Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller.

Learn more about the real people this movie is based on:
James B. Donavon
Francis Gary Powers
Rudolph Able

Learn more about the Cold War.

From the Studio:
“Bridge of Spies” tells the story of James Donovan, a Brooklyn lawyer who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible task to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot. Screenwriters Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen have woven this remarkable experience in Donovan’s life into a story inspired by true events that captures the essence of a man who risked everything and vividly brings his personal journey to life.© DreamWorks Pictures/Twentieth Century Fox

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Bridge of Spies movie is February 2, 2016. Here are some details…

Home Video Notes: Bridge of Spies
Release Date: 2 February 2016
Bridge of Spies releases to home video (Blu-ray) with the following extras:
- “Berlin 1961: Re-creating The Divide” - Experience the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Frederic Pryor’s arrest through a mix of archival imagery, behind-the-scenes moments and firsthand accounts.
- “U-2 Spy Plane” - Witness the making of the spectacular U-2 plane crash sequence with archival voiceover by U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, and a cameo by his son, Francis Gary Powers, Jr.
- “Spy Swap: Looking Back On The Final Act” - Relive a page of Cold War history on the Glienicke Bridge while shooting the historic exchange of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers.
- “A Case Of The Cold War: Bridge of Spies” - Delve deeper into the film’s characters and the real-life people on whom they’re based, and discover why the history behind “Bridge Of Spies” still resonates today.

Related home video titles:

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and The Hunt for Red October are other movies set during the cold war. In The Conspirator, another lawyer struggles to give his client a fair trail when she is implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

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