Screen Entertainment

The Post - a cinematic firecracker

With hot button topics like a president angered by the press doing their job, potential censorship of news and a woman making her place in the patriarchy, it's easy to see why The Post is proving to be such a cinematic firecracker, writes Darren Bevan.  

But in truth, director Steven Spielberg's take on All the President's Men and to a degree, Spotlight, seems more Mr Hanks Goes To Washington and genial than savage as you'd hope.

Apparently rushed into urgent production to tackle the current US climate and the reaction to President Trump, fake news et al, The Post looks into the cover-up of the Pentagon Papers back in the early 1970s.

When The New York Times took papers from the US Government that purported to show the truth of the Vietnam war, they found themselves in the cross hairs not just of the authorities, but also of the provincial new-kid-on-the-block newspaper, The Washington Post.

With an injunction slapped on the Times, The Post, under its editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks, in a dogged and ruthless everyman turn) decides to step in to try and make a name for itself — but battle lines are drawn morally and financially with Meryl Streep's Kay Graham under pressure as she tries to helm the newspaper empire and get it floated to ensure its future success.

The Post is the kind of worthy Oscar-bait drama that thrives on its contemporary themes present in a story from yesteryear as it riffs on All The President's Men and feels bizarrely, like a prequel.

There's never been a more pertinent time to present a film such as this, and even if it does use its ensemble cast to maximum effect, it still can't but help to allow Spielberg to proffer up his trademark over-sentimentalising moments as well.

From a speech of Streep's character decrying The Post is "my company now" after bemoaning the fact it was her father's, to the reveal of the court verdict that blatantly emphasises the message that freedom of the press is vital in this day and age, there's a touch of heavy-handedness with which The Post indulges itself.

And there are moments where the film chooses to explain proceedings, rather than present them, that feels a little like it's pandering to the masses. Yet, despite these moments, it's a superior piece of film-making. Hanks and Streep deliver strong and solid performances which smack of potential peer recognition, and certainly there's a lit touch paper quality to the stories they deliver.

Despite it all though, their stories are universal and both Hanks and Streep rise to what's needed of them and deliver with panache and verve.

It may be that Spielberg's done his version of Capra and Mr Smith Goes To Washington and hits a few familiar tropes throughout (a typical montage of actual journalism being done being one of them), but he does so engagingly and for the most part, enticingly. If ever a film about journalism were more pertinent, more timely and more urgent, then it would be a surprise.

Expect to see The Post's jabs rewarded come Oscar season — and even if it had been better had it been a little more subtle, this film, with its love of news, the old school printing presses, and the fight for truth and justice, manages to be as compelling as it should.

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Bruce Greenwood

Director: Steven Spielberg

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