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The Post (Tom Hanks/Meryl Streep) - Review

The Post

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THREE titans of contemporary cinema unite for The Post, a gripping account of the rise of The Washington Post newspaper and its role in taking on a corrupt government.

Steven Spielberg directs with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep occupying the two central roles. It’s a trio that’s headline grabbing enough but while certainly serving as a fascinating history lesson; The Post has plenty to say about contemporary issues too. For that reason, it’s easy to see why the script – by Josh Singer and Elizabeth Hannah – attracted such heavyweight talent.

Set in the ’70s, in the build up to the Watergate scandal so famously chronicled by All The Presidents Men, The Post focuses on an earlier scandal: namely, the publication of The Pentagon Papers, a 7,000 page report that, in a nutshell, revealed how the US government knew it couldn’t win the war in Vietnam but kept sending troops anyway for fear of the humiliation a withdrawal would bring.

Scrambling to get their hands on these documents and avoid the legal threats issued by the Nixon presidency are Washington Post owner and publisher Kay Graham (Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks).

For Graham, the stakes are particularly high. Should she publish and risk imprisonment and the loss of her paper, not to mention valued friends? But would bowing to government pressure be letting them off the hook and denying the public the truth?

The moral and ethical complexities at play provide Streep and Hanks with plenty to chew over and they tuck in with relish. Their scenes together are among the film’s best.

But perhaps more telling is just how astute and timely The Post‘s narrative is. In an era in which the term ‘fake news’ is banded about both rightly and wrongly, the film serves as a potent reminder of the power of a good, free, well trained press. Like Spotlight a couple of years ago, it shows how good journalism has history-changing relevance.

And on an equally important level, The Post also shines a light on feminism and equality and the continued battle for women to be heard and valued.

Streep’s Graham is often a sheep among wolves: a lone female voice who is continually silenced, ignored and belittled even though she was the first female newspaper publisher in US history. It’s another of the film’s joys seeing how Streep navigates her way through the male egos, while subtly reminding audiences of the issue’s continued relevance.

Hot button issues aside, The Post also serves as a worthy addition to the genre it represents, even if it can’t quite match the intensity or emotional clout of the aforementioned Spotlight.

Spielberg directs well, building the tension nicely and managing to make you forget the outcome. You’ll be sweating along with the journalists.

Just occasionally, he undermines the film’s tension by cutting away from the newsroom to drop in on one of Graham’s parties. But one suspects this was done to underline the gap between the day-to-day realities of both sides.

In terms of performance, there’s also plenty to savour. Streep is as great as we’ve come to expect, Hanks is alive with journalistic swagger and delivers barbed put-downs (“let’s pretend you’re not a novelist”) with aplomb, and the ensemble likes of Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson and Bradley Whitford all deliver when given the opportunity.

The Post is a smart, astute piece of cinema that entertains in spades while still having plenty to say on a political, social and journalistic level. It is a film worthy of the heavyweight talent it has attracted.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 59mins
UK Release Date: January 19, 2018