During the Cold War, an American lawyer, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), is hired to defend an arrested Soviet spy (Mark Rylance) in court. He is then asked by the CIA to help them facilitate an exchange of the spy for Francis Gary Powers, a pilot captured by the Soviets.
A Steven Spielberg Historical drama/period drama is something to look forward to as, more often than not, they prove to be his most important and hardest hitting films. Films like Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and Amistad are Spielberg's more powerful films, however, Bridge of Spies is more closer to Catch Me If You Can than his other ventures into the past. That is of course not a bad thing, because the film never tries to be a hard hitting historical thriller but it does mean the film, whilst being great fun to watch, doesn't become edge of the seat tense or exciting just safe and watchable. Whilst the repressive nature of East Germany and communism as a whole is captured (the creation of the Berlin wall is a great scene), the film doesn't fully dive deep to fully depict what a repressive state East Germany was.
That said, however, the film is fun to watch and gripping enough for it to be worthy of investing 140 minutes into it. It is driven by two good leading performances from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. Mark Rylance, in particular, is superb as his empathic portrayal of the Russian spy Abel helps the audience empathise with him despite him being on the opposing side. The fact that the audience does care about both central characters helps drive the film forward. Hanks, playing the all good American, does a job he is accustomed to doing for the past twenty years, and does a good job as expected.
As it's a Spielberg film you expect many things, namely a film that’s technically very impressive. The cinematography is excellent and the period design is perfect as of both 1950s New York and 1960s Berlin is designed superbly. On the downside however is you also still get the Spielberg, schmaltzy, flag waving sentimentally. Smaltz aside, the film does preach that even the biggest of enemies can cooperate with one another and bring about a peaceful transaction, an important message considering the current political climate.
Spielberg helps the film peter a long nicely, and a witty script (co-written) by the Coen brothers also helps things move on nicely despite the slow paced nature (and action free) story.