Bridge of Spies is the true story of an american lawyer named James Donovan (Tom Hanks). After a soviet spy named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is captured and put on trial, the CIA recruits Donovan to come and defend him, but it's not long after this that a fighter pilot (Austin Stowell), hired to take photos of Berlin, is involved in an accident that brings his plane crashing down. He's taken hostage by the Soviets and interrogated for information, and it's up to the CIA to get him out of there. Their plan? Send Donovan over to Berlin to perform an exchange of prisoners. And if you know much about the cold war, you know that's certainly not a good idea.
It's a political thriller, the runtime filled nearly entirely with conversations between two or more parties. There are long, slow and quiet scenes with little to no movement and, thanks to Spielberg's cinematic approach to everything he does and his stylish and riveting cinematography, it's some of the most gripping cinema you will see all year. It's no surprise to hear that Spielberg does a great job at directing this film, but it's true. He does. He manages to turn two and a half hours of slow building negotiations into something more exciting and tension filled than the last three Terminator films combined, and I'm not sure if I'm congratulating this film or insulting those films when I say that. Let's just say I'm congratulating this one.
When Hanks and Spielberg team up, all sorts of magical things can happen. With Bridge of Spies, Hanks gives a tremendous performance. If it weren't for Captain Phillips, this would be the best performance he's given in a number of years, but I'm glad it's not because Captain Phillips is an absolutely brilliant movie and I'm glad it exists. Hanks brings likability to this character, and he also nails the family aspect of the film. There's just a handful of scenes between him and his family, but in every last one of them you can tell they have a history together. You can feel his love for them, making the scenes in Berlin all the more suspenseful. It increases the stakes, not on a global scale, but on a personal level.
To sum up, Bridge of Spies see's Steven Spielberg returning to his prime. The performances are beyond brilliant, the scenes in Berlin are thoroughly engaging and the screenplay mixes classic Coen brothers with classic Spielberg, and the two work extremely well together.