“Our principles are engraved in the history and the law of this land. If the free world is not faithful to its own moral code, there remains no society for which others may hunger.” —James B. Donovan, 1962 (The Milwaukee Journal). When I saw this movie on the “New Release” wall the other night, I thought, “Oh, here’s a spy thriller that Alan will enjoy” (assuming I probably wouldn’t, but that would be okay). I was wrong. Alan and I both loved it! In fact, I believe it will become a classic, because it’s not only a Steven Spielberg thriller, it’s a true story! Bridge of Spies is the heart-stopping account of true events that happened during the Cold War when attorney James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) was recruited to serve as advocate for the captured KGB spy, Rudolf Abel.Despite terrible public pressure for him to condemn Abel, Donovan did his best to defend Abel in a fair trial based on all of our nation’s constitutional privileges.
and Donovan puts his own life (and the life of his family) at risk in order to protect the constitutional freedoms of this quiet artist who has been found guilty of spying and treason.Despite Bridge of Spies being a 2h 21m biographical drama with no sex, profanity, or egregious violence, it’s been a huge success: 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, 7.7 on IMDb, and it’s still playing in our local theaters. It’s been nominated for nearly 30 awards, including 6 Oscars, and has already won 4 awards for “Top Ten Pictures in 2015” and “Best Supporting Actor.”The bridge referred to in the story is the Glienicke Bridge that links Berlin with Potsdam, and I will tell you that much of the story involves trying to negotiate an exchange of prisoners between the U.S., U.S.S.R. and East Germany. The most remarkable parts of the movie for me were James B. Donovan’s integrity, courage and tenacity as he advocated for a man who was guilty, and Donovan’s passion to win the hearts of the world’s people to desire democracy through goodness, not simply justice. As he said, “Our principles are engraved in the history and the law of this land. If the free world is not faithful to its own moral code, there remains no society for which others may hunger.” —James B. Donovan
Bridge of Spies left a veritable haystack of gold in my brain for spinning threads. How should we treat illegal aliens? Is there enough honor and goodness left in the moral fabric of our country to make other societies hunger for our way of life? Donovan understood that goodness is ultimately what draws people to desire what is good: “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NASB) In most ways, Rudolph Abel was a man of excellent character and much to be admired (like so many people); yet, like all of us, he had a fatal flaw that would condemn him to death: Treason! Donovan was a faithful advocate for Rudolph Abel, just as Jesus is the merciful and compassionate advocate before the Judge of the Universe for all of us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV). I know I’m guilty and would be condemned to death not only because I have willfully sinned at times but also because I have not been loyal to (which is treason against) the King of Kings…were it not for the love and advocacy of Christ, who has negotiated an exchange for me. How about you?
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
(In case you watch the movie and wonder about Gary Powers: ” CIA inquiry into the ordeal found that Powers had handled himself appropriately. The organization bestowed upon him its highest honor, the Intelligence Star for bravery.”—History.com)
(All pictures from Bridge of Spies and Wikipedia Commons.)