This is probably the least Spielberg-esque film Steven Spielberg has ever directed. Though whatever trademarks he has is hardly noticeable except by the most obsessed film buffs, it’s noticeable how different Bridge of Spies feels from other Spielberg dramas. Sentimentality is stripped to its bare minimum. The world feels more grey than usual. Hell, this film doesn’t even have John Williams as composer. What it does have is Spielberg’s gift of storytelling, which blends courtroom drama with the spy thriller into one compelling true life story of one man’s battle to preserve his integrity against overwhelming odds.
The film begins with the arrest of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). Knowing the Soviet could use Abel’s arrest as propaganda, the US Government hires reluctant insurance agent James Donovan (Tom Hanks) as Abel’s defense attorney. Though he and everyone else know Abel will be found guilty, Donovan still defends him to the best of his abilities. In the process, he becomes a pariah of the country, with death threats and vandalism hitting close to home. He meets further resistance when he takes his defense to the Supreme Court to prevent Abel from getting the death penalty. He believes they can use Abel as a bargaining chip.
He’s proven right when soldier Francis Gary Powers’(Austin Stowell) gunned down in the Soviet Union. The CIA forces Donovan to cross the Berlin Wall to negotiate an exchange for Power’s life. It would have been simple until Donovan finds out American tourist Frederick Pryor’s (Will Rogers) also been captured crossing the wall. Donovan puts a lot on the line to have Pryor included in the exchange.
An admirable trait of Spielberg is his unwillingness to back away from humanity’s dark side. Whether its Amon Goethe taking down prisoners with a sniper rifle in Schindler’s List or Celie taking beatings at the hands of Mister in The Color Purple, Spielberg’s unafraid to stare into the abyss. Donovan himself endures a lot of ugliness defending the integrity of due process. They are as subtle as a stare by a bus passenger to the vicious as a stranger opening fire on his house. When he goes to Berlin, he witnesses a family gunned down trying to cross the Wall. Then he enters East Berlin, where he cross a street and lose his jacket to a gang. But with the darkness, you appreciate the light even more.
Writing the screenplay alongside newcomer Matt Charman are Joel and Ethan Coen. Yes, those Coen Brothers. You can see the spin on genres you’d expect from the writers and directors of Fargo and No Country for Old Men. They add a spin to both the spy thriller and courtroom drama through the character of Rudolf Abel. I’m not sure what you’d expect from a soviet spy, but not a frail, Irish gentleman. The last two years has seen Rylance’s star rise on stage (Twelfth Night) and Television (Wolf Hall). In this film, he brings a soft charm to Abel. You almost want him to go free. 
Bridge of Spies is entertainment on two levels. As a courtroom drama, it’s a complex and engaging battle to preserve the constitution. As a Spy Thriller, it’s a sharp thrill ride keeping you at the edge of your seat without firing a single bullet. But at its core, it is a tale of a man’s fighting for everything he stands for. In the courtroom, he maintains the right of a guilty man to maintain his constitutional rights. By keeping him from getting the death penalty, he sets an example of reason over emotion. Through the exchange, he preserves the value of two lives, whether they are a soldier or just a young man. Spielberg and the Coen brothers keep his battles thrilling from beginning to end.
 This time, it’s Finding Nemo’s Thomas Newman filling in as composer.
 Spielberg’s already cast Rylance as the title character of Road Dahl’s The BFG. Spielberg also reunites with Melissa Mathieson, the late screenwriter of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.