Bridge of Spies


The Film

Bridge of Spies is a 2015 American historical drama-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. The film stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda. Based on the 1960 U-2 incident during the Cold War, the film tells the story of lawyer James B. Donovan, who is entrusted with negotiating the release of Francis Gary Powers, a pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, in exchange for Rudolf Abel, a captive Soviet KGB spy held under the custody of the United States. The name of the film refers to the Glienicke Bridge, which connects Potsdam with Berlin, where the spy exchange took place.

Principal photography began on 8th September 2014, in Brooklyn, New York City, and the production proceeded at Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam. The film was released by Touchstone Pictures on 16th October 2015, in North America and distributed by 20th Century Fox in the UK and other territories.

It was a box office success, grossing $164 million worldwide, and received critical acclaim, with special praise for its direction, screenplay, acting, score, and production merits. The film received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Rylance.

Cinema Trailer




James Donovan wrote an account of the incident in 1964 under the title 'Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers'. The historical background to the U-2 incident and the story of former West Berlin CIA chief William King Harvey and Operation Gold was published in Rory MacLean's 'Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries' (2014). Soviet intelligence officer Rudolf Abel, who lived and operated in Brooklyn Heights, undertook dead drops of stolen documents in Prospect Park. His arrest and history were discussed by Truman Capote, another Heights resident at the time, in his book' A House on the Heights'.

Matt Charman became interested in Donovan's story after reading a footnote about him in 'An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963'. After meeting with Donovan's son in New York City, Charman pitched the story to several studios and DreamWorks bought it. Studio co-founder Steven Spielberg became interested in the film and decided to direct. Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger attached themselves as producers along with Spielberg. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen revised Matt Charman's original script. According to Charman, the brothers "were able to really punch up the negotiations on the back end of the movie, then they handed the baton back to me to do a pass after they did their pass, to make the movie just sit in a place we all wanted it to. The flavor they brought is so fun and enjoyable. It needed to be entertaining but truthful."

In June 2014, Fox 2000 Pictures agreed to co-finance the film with DreamWorks and Participant Media, with the film's distribution rights being divided between Disney and Fox. On 3rd March 2015, during an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian, Platt revealed the title to be 'Bridge of Spies'; it was shot under the working title of St. James Place.

In May 2014, it was announced that Tom Hanks would star as James Donovan, with Mark Rylance co-starring as Abel. Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, and Eve Hewson were reported to star in the film as well. Participant Media co-produced the film. Francis Gary Powers, Jr., founder of The Cold War Museum and the pilot's son, was brought on as a technical consultant and has a cameo in the film.


Principal photography began on 8th September 2014, in Brooklyn, New York City. On 14th September, filming took place in DUMBO, a Brooklyn neighbourhood, where crews transformed Anchorage Street to appear as it did in the 1960s. On 15th September, filming took place in Astoria, between Astoria Park and Ditmars Boulevard. Filming was undertaken on 18 Street and 26 Avenue in Astoria, where Spielberg was spotted transforming the '5 Corners Deli' into a 1950s grocery store. On 26th September, filming took place on 44th Street in Manhattan, between Madison and 6th Avenues. On 27th September, Hanks was spotted filming scenes on Wall Street among extras wearing 1960s costumes. On 28th September, filming of some day and night scenes took place on the corner of Henry Street and Love Lane in the Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood of Brooklyn, where the block was set with vintage cars, street signs, rain machines, and spotlights. On 29th September, filming took place on Hicks Street and Pineapple Street, where a shop, 'Perfect Paws', was transformed into a 1960s dress shop named 'Brooklyn Pearl', and at the NYS Appellate Division courthouse on Monroe Place and Pierrepont Street. On 6th October, Hanks and the crew were spotted on the same location on Hicks Street.

In early October, after filming wrapped in New York City, further production began at Babelsberg Studios in Berlin and Potsdam, Germany, and would last there through to the end of November. Filming in Berlin began with shooting at the former Tempelhof Airport in October, for scenes that actually took place there, such as Donovan's disembarking from an historic C-54 Skymaster. A prisoner exchange scene was filmed on the Glienicke Bridge, the so-called 'Bridge of Spies', where the historical exchange actually took place in 1962. The bridge spans the Havel narrows between Berlin and Potsdam, and was closed to traffic for filming over the last weekend of November. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the set to watch the filming of these scenes. Principal photography officially ended on 4th December at Berlin Tempelhof.

Shooting also took place in Wroclaw, Poland, in the second half of November. During mid-December, filming took place at Beale Air Force Base, located near Marysville, California.

The film was shot on 35mm motion picture film, including KODAK Vision3 250D Color Negative Film 5207 and KODAK Vision3 500T Color Negative Film 5219.


Bridge of Spies was distributed in North America by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, through its Touchstone Pictures banner. Disney held the film's world premiere on 4th October 2015 at the 53rd annual New York Film Festival. The film went into general theatrical release in the United States on 16th October 2015. 20th Century Fox distributed the film in the remaining international territories.

Critical Reception

Bridge of Spies received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 92%. The site's critical consensus reads, "Bridge of Spies finds new life in Hollywood's classic Cold War espionage thriller formula, thanks to reliably outstanding work from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating 'universal acclaim'. On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of 'A' on an A+ to F scale.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film four out of four stars, and praised Spielberg's direction, saying: "Spielberg has taken an important but largely forgotten and hardly action-packed slice of the Cold War and turned it into a gripping character study and thriller that feels a bit like a John Le Carre adaptation if Frank Capra were at the controls". Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune called the film a "a confident .... highly satisfying example of old-school Hollywood craftsmanship, starring a major movie star brandishing a briefcase, and a handkerchief, rather than a pistol". The A.V. Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky described it as "one of the most handsome movies of Spielberg's latter-day phase, and possibly the most eloquent.... Bridge of Spies turns a secret prisoner exchange between the CIA and the KGB into a tense and often disarmingly funny cat-and-mouse game".


Tom Hanks as James B. Donovan
Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel
Scott Shepherd as Agent Hoffman
Amy Ryan as Mary McKenna Donovan
Sebastian Koch as Wolfgang Vogel
Alan Alda as Thomas Watters
Austin Stowell as Francis Gary Powers
Billy Magnussen as Doug Forrester
Eve Hewson as Carol Donovan
Jillian Lebling as Peggy Donovan
Noah Schnapp as Roger Donovan
Jesse Plemons as Joe Murphy
Michael Gaston as Williams
Peter McRobbie as Allen Dulles
Domenick Lombardozzi as Agent Blasco
Will Rogers as Frederic Pryor
Dakin Matthews as Judge Mortimer W. Byers
Stephen Kunken as William Tompkins
Joshua Harto as Bates
Mark Zak as Soviet Judge
Edward James Hyland as Chief Justice Earl Warren
Mikhail Gorevoy as Ivan Schischkin
Burghart Klaußner as Harald Ott


Frequent Spielberg collaborator John Williams was originally announced to compose the film's score. However, Williams had to drop out of production due to a health issue. Thomas Newman was then contacted by Spielberg to replace Williams, marking Spielberg's first film without Williams' music since 1985's The Color Purple, which was scored by Quincy Jones. Hollywood Records released the film's soundtrack on 16th October 2015.

All music composed by Thomas Newman.

1. "Hall of Trade Unions, Moscow" 0:43
2. "Sunlit Silence" 4:04
3. "Ejection Protocol" 1:56
4. "Standing Man" 2:11
5. "Rain" 1:21
6. "Lt. Francis Gary Powers" 3:04
7. "The Article" 1:36
8. "The Wall" 2:14
9. "Private Citizen" 1:35
10. "The Impatient Plan" 1:35
11. "West Berlin" 1:12
12. "Friedrichstrasse Station" 1:20
13. "Glienicke Bridge" 10:51
14. "Homecoming" 7:46
15. "Bridge of Spies (End Title)"

Total length: 48:25

Newman had previously written the score for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and lattery for Spectre.

Box Office

As of 25th February 2016, Bridge of Spies has grossed $72.2 million in North America and $92.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $164.3 million, against a budget of $40 million.