For every ‘Ready Player One’, you have ‘The Post’. Director Steven Spielberg next two directorial efforts into 2018 following 2016’s ‘BFG’ include a political thriller and science-fiction fantasy. Both rely on source material, but one will include generous CGI, dazzling action and a pulse-pounding soundtrack to really blow the mind. The other relies on history, tension, engrossing acting and a grounded look at politics that transcends decades. ‘The Post’ is the latter and, in my opinion, shows when Spielberg currently is at his best delivering these kind of movies.
Much like ‘Bridge Of Spies’, ‘Munich’ and even ‘Lincoln’, this is a story with politics at the heart of it. Regardless of who or what is at the frontline of the story, it’s the looming and often unseen presence of the White House or the government in question that keeps the plot moving. With the Vietnam war as the catalyst (cue the tick box iconography of a 60s rock soundtrack, low-flying helicopters and jungle ambushes), this isn’t war film on foreign soil however – it’s a war film between the free press and the government fought in American offices and homes with printing presses, telephones and secret papers used as weapons.
At just under 2hrs, don’t expect this to jump back and forth between the Vietnam war, even if this is the root of everything. We have a few minutes at the opening, and then we are jetted back to Washington D.C for the real fight. The atmosphere is brilliant, and the sights and sounds of the early 70s look near perfect to someone young enough not to around in that decade. Everything from the press offices, the cars, the clothing and décor seems spot on and creates a perfect setting for the story. Shirt sleeves rolled up, cigarette smoke hangs in every room and a real sense of hustle and bustle that was the backbone to how the press operated under pressure.
But this is Meryl Steep and Tom Hanks’ film. While Academy Award nominated Streep delivers her role as Katherine Graham as a steadily simmering woman who fights so hard to keep her demeanour professional at all times, never letting her shell crack in front of others, I feel Hanks was over-looked also for his role as Ben Bradlee.
There is something so engrossing about Hanks in any role, and you just automatically invest in him and from the chain smoking, over-confident editor-in-chief we meet at first, he retains this but shows so much passion, drive and fight in wanting to do what is just and right that you really admire him and his team, and you cheer for him; you want him to push harder, to succeed at all costs. Streep and Hanks are the stellar actors of their generation and play off each other perfectly, and make a truly winning partnership.
With a supporting cast including Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie and Tracy Lets, it’s a wide pool of talent who are character actors and need nothing more than a strong script to create a great deal of underlying tension and drama from something that is so simple when you read it on paper – no pun intended.
There are moments when the talking gets a little TOO talky, but it’s never boring or complicated to follow, and there is a strong narrative that cranks the tension up gradually every 10 minutes or so. Something happens. Someone appears. It’s little moments that build on everything else to make the bigger picture even bigger, and the outcome even more important. It has hidden messages that can be linked to the current Donald Trump administration without being a glaring “Trump Bashing” exercise, and yet never dwells on too much politics to turn you off. This is about working men and women, faced with choices that could either liberate the American people or put them all in prison – what do you do when faced with a choice like that?
You can smell the ink during a wonderfully simple moment where we witness what goes on in the printing room from creating the font stamps manually and the paper as it rolls off. Talk about a history lesson – this is how it was before the digital age, and my respect for everyone in that era increased 100% after Spielberg shows us how it was done. Plus, a nice cheeky foreshadowing of the scandal yet to come – Watergate.
‘The Post’ is a slow burning but well-paced political thriller, using every tool in the Spielberg arsenal from diegetic noise, contrasting shading, tight camera shots, stellar actors and a veteran crew without all the political conversations and jargon to deliver a relevant look at the hidden war fought on American soil that changed the free world.
As Alison Brie’s character beautifully reminds us: the press was to serve the governed, not the governors.
CHRIS’ RATING: 9 / 10
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk