Peter Suderman on Steven Spielberg and Bridge of Spies


I wrote about Steven Spielberg's new Cold War spy thriller, Bridge of Spies, and the long, slow shift in Spielberg's perspective as a director from an awe-struck childlike viewpoint to a more protective parental viewpoint, over at Vox.

Here's how it starts:

Midway through director Steven Spielberg's new historical thriller Bridge of Spies,there's a scene in which the movie's protagonist, lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), explains to his young son why he's chosen to defend a Soviet spy in American court.

Donovan's decision to not only take the case but vigorously pursue the spy's defense has caused him to face intense criticism from his community, and his family are among those who can't seem to understand why he did it; even his wife has questioned why he's so committed to the case. But Donovan explains to his son that in America, everyone deserves a fair hearing, one that follows the essential rules laid out in the Constitution.

What's important to understand about the scene is that Donovan is not just explaining himself to his son. He's explaining himself to the audience — justifying his actions to viewers who might themselves be skeptical.

No relationship is more important to Spielberg the relationship between parents and their children — specifically, the relationship between fathers and their sons. In some form or another, that relationship is at the core of nearly all of Spielberg's films.

The gulf between parents and their children helps explain Spielberg's relationship with his audience, too. In his early years, Spielberg tended to present his stories from a child's vantage point — full of awe and excitement and terror at the unknown. But over time, he's shifted his perspective to that of the protective parent whose biggest fear is seeing his children harmed.

Read the whole thing

Previous Vox columns: Ridley Scott's The Martian, and why October is such a great month for movies