Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bridge of Spies - Shows a Slice of Life of a International Legal Negotitor

I just saw the stunning Tom Hanks movie, "Bridge of Spies" and HIGHLY recommend it for a time wrap into our most dangerous nuclear face off -- and what a civilian was able to do that our government could not do.

It's about a NY lawyer, Jim Donovan, who was asked by the CIA and U.S. government to help negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union on a spy mission. They wanted him involved because it was too risky for U.S. officials to be tied to it, in case something went wrong (and usually does).

Donovan was an insurance attorney, but he jumped into a whole new world and became an international legal negotiator as a result of this event. I found it extremely realistic (as someone who negotiated in over 50 countries.)  

The international lawyer lives in a world in which many of the rules are unwritten and you have to think on your feet. The scene where Donovan was fighting a cold, jet lag and the language and cultural barriers --and what he does when facing off an East German gang wanting his coat--is classic style. 

Despite that encounter, he had to make the next meeting in hostile country and see through the games being played by the other side despite lack of sleep and a strong desire to go home ASAP.  I felt that way on a six week stint in China, etc. in "Better Times Ahead April Fool" and during a kidnapping negotiation in Syria.

I HIGHLY recommend it. 

The movie shows a slice of what my book "Better Times Ahead April Fool" describes in writing - flying into totally different countries, each with totally different laws, different customs and different languages, and -- despite jet lag and language barriers --negotiating deals with nothing more than a telephone and briefcase, in negotiating rooms with cold floors and street signs you can't read, figuring out the unwritten rules and having to rely on your instincts and guts in strange places.  We didn't have computers and smart phones or GPS maps back then. Being in a strange place become "normal"...

Donovan made the leap and decided to convince the East Germans to also release an American student who had been jailed in East Berlin when he tried to get his girl friend out before the "Berlin wall" separating East Berlin from West Berlin was built.  He didn't abandon that position even when the CIA only cared about getting back our U-2 pilot.

To see how it all played out, check out "Bridges of Spies" to see what the world of international negotiation (still) looks like - negotiating with a bad cold  and somehow communicating despite the language wall and cultures that view time differently than we do. Seeing through the tricks and holding out for a deal that others would not have, that is the life of the global negotiator - amazing.

It's a skill few have. Donovan is a role model for showing the world how the American legal profession, and our lawyers, remains a unique example of American exceptionalism.

Here is the link to the trailer for Bridge of Spies.  Steven Spielberg did a tremendous job shooting it. Just discovered that we share the same birthdate - Dec. 18! Sags rule! lol.

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