5 GREAT COLD WAR FILMS
PUBLISHED 22 AUG 2016
BRIDGE OF SPIES
Steven Spielberg / 2015
“What’s the next move when you don’t know what the game is?”
What makes BRIDGE OF SPIES such an intriguing Cold War film is that it is the only one on this list told from the perspective of a man who has little knowledge of it. Insurance lawyer James Donavan (Tom Hanks) is pulled into the complex arena that the Cold War has created when he has to defend a Soviet spy. Hanks brings his classic everyman sensibility to this film and, like him, we are unsure who to trust and what to believe.
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
John McTiernan / 1990
“I miss the peace of fishing like when I was a boy. Forty years I've been at sea. A war at sea. A war with no battles, no monuments, only casualties.”
Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) was a loyal Soviet mariner. However, when he takes his submarine off-course it is up to Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) to determine what his motives are. This thriller builds a sense of claustrophobia with its stealth-like use of submarines and with that it also builds tension. There is the feeling that at any moment everything could go wrong. The submarine setting makes the Cold War more intimate, allowing us to connect with the characters, Russian and American alike.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
Tomas Alfredson / 2011
“It’s the oldest question of all, George. Who can spy on the spies?”
When Control (John Hurt) believes there is a mole in MI5, he dispatches George Smiley (Gary Oldman) to rat him out. TINKER, TAILOR is a film about trust and loyalty. It uses this period and an agency built on lies to present how it is hard to know who to trust since all the characters in the film are enigmas. The film’s slow pace and emphasis on character helps build the paranoia of the period.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
John Frankenheimer / 1962
“His brain has not been washed, as they say... It has been dry cleaned.”
While many films depict conspiracy as a third act surprise, THE MANCHURAIN CANDIDATE reveals it in the first act and invites us to watch it unfold. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), an upstanding member of the US Army, is brainwashed by communists and becomes their own personal assassin and key pawn in their plan to cripple the USA. This film focuses on the flaws in American society that would make this plot possible. There are clear references to McCarthyism and the Red Scare of the 1950s but, unlike most Cold War films, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE does not just show the communists as the villains, but also the Americans themselves. The plot does tie itself up in knots but the social commentary more than makes up for it.
DR STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB
Stanley Kubrick / 1964
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.”
DR STRANGELOVE takes a more satirical look at the Cold War and how it could play out. When General Jack D Ripper (Sterling Hayden) goes rogue and aims to start World War III, he causes panic in the US War Room. Peter Sellers plays three characters in this film and all are played to comic perfection. George C Scott also plays his role so seriously that it becomes ridiculous. The small details are what make this film great such as the delicate telephone calls to the Russian Premier and the plot to pollute the US water supply. The most worrying thing about the film is that the events portrayed could have actually happened.
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