Bridge Of Spies is a riveting film, the kind of movie that shows that the barrier between fiction and reality is incredibly thin.
I went to the theater without any preconceived opinion of any kind about the movie, as I didn't know anything about it. All I needed to know was that the movie was set during the Cold War, starring Tom Hanks and produced by Steven Spielberg. Hence, knowing at the end that Bridge Of Spies was actually based on a true story was even more astonishing.
Tom Hanks plays James B.Donovan an american lawyer forced to defend Rudolf Abel, a Soviet spy who lived anonymously in the US for years. Donovan's resilience and ethics are remarkable throughout the trial, and even more so after that. He put everything on the line to save one man from the death penalty: his credibility, his family and even his own life. Helping an "enemy" was frowned upon at such a tense period of time. That's why Donovan's loyalty to his client was remarkable. Despite the persecutions and threats on his life, he never gave up on Abel and even became very close to him.
In an interview the real James Donovan said: "You can't accuse this man of treason, he's not a traitor. He's actually a patriot to his cause." For him killing people who were loyal to their country was a mistake that would make America not so different from the ideology they were supposed to fight.
The course of events will prove Donovan right as an american pilot, Francis Gary Powers will be captured by the USSR, thus allowing a trade between him and Abel. In the midst of that, an american student named Frederic Pryor will find himself caught in East-Berlin into the clutches of the soviets.
Tom Hanks is, as always, at his best and delivers a wonderful performance. However, Mark Rylance was the real highlight of the movie as his interpretation of Rudolf Abel was captivating. He was able to convey all this emotions without getting too verbal, keeping all the mystery about his character intact, even after the audience left the theater. No wonder he has been nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in the movie.
The second half of the movie was probably the most thrilling part. Germany is under enormous pressure as the soviets just began to build the now infamous Berlin Wall. From here, all the political aspects of this period take-over. Donovan tries to save both Powers and Pryor despite the reluctance of his country to save the latter. Indeed, Powers is a soldier who could give up important information to the enemy. On the other hand, Pryor is just a nobody the US doesn't really give a damn about.
Thinking that a simple lawyer was sent to the other side of the wall, with no back-up whatsoever, to negotiate with the soviets is simply unbelievable. The Berlin setting is astonishing yet really frightening as you genuinely feel for Donovan the entire time he's hanging in the dark, snowy alleys of the city. From there it's exclusively a game of lies and political cant as Berliners and Soviets are both trying to recover Abel but in exchange for a different prisoner.
I don't want to repeat myself but again, Donovan's stubbornness was remarkable and perfectly portrayed by Hanks. He did everything he could to trade two prisoners for one, in an exchange that seemed rigged and yet, he surprisingly succeeded. Realizing that a "Mister Nobody" had so much implication into key events of the Cold War is crazy. His story is something people can relate to as nothing destined him to accomplish what he did. He's this ordinary hero you could meet on the street.
After that, I was really intrigued about this man's life. So I researched on the internet everything I could find about Donovan and discovered that after this incredible adventure he became very close to then-president John F.Kennedy and was an integral part of the resolution of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1962. He was the privileged interlocutor of Fidel Castro and even traveled to Cuba to do so.
His place in history books has been reduced to nothing but James Donovan played a vital role into key events of the Cold War. He was a true hero only seeking for justice and never asked for anything in return. And for that Mr. Donovan I take my hat off to you.