domingo, 28 de janeiro de 2018
The Post review – all the news they don’t want you to print / Steven Spielberg’s urgent 70s-set thriller stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in a timely lesson on the need for a vigilant press / Steven Spielberg: ‘The urgency to make The Post was because of Trump's administration’
The Post review – all the news they don’t want you to print
Mark Kermode's film of the week
Mark Kermode's film of the week
Steven Spielberg’s urgent 70s-set thriller stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in a timely lesson on the need for a vigilant press
Mark Kermode, Observer film critic
Sun 21 Jan 2018 09.00 GMT
“We can’t have an administration dictating to us our coverage just because they don’t like what we print about them in our newspaper…” At a time when Donald Trump’s White House has declared war not merely on the media but on “truth” itself, there’s something almost quaint about the spectre of a corrupt US president attempting to quash a story, rather than the entire fourth estate.
Playing like a prequel to All the President’s Men (the final coda nods towards the opening of Alan J Pakula’s masterpiece), Steven Spielberg’s Vietnam-era thriller recalls the 1971 revelations of the Pentagon Papers – a devastating internal report that detailed how “the White House has been lying about the war”. While Nixon (making a creepy voice-cameo appearance) seethes about “treasonable action”, newspaper editors head to the supreme court, asserting their constitutional right to speak truth to power. Meanwhile, a behind-the-scenes battle of the sexes rages, as the Washington Post balances the demands of its investors with the awful truth that “the only way to protect the right to publish is to publish!”
Spielberg opens with a black screen (mirroring the iconic white-page opening of All the President’s Men), which gives way to a bloody Vietnam firefight in 1966, witnessed first-hand by military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys). Fast-forward to ’71, where Ellsberg’s leaked report (“United States – Vietnam Relations 1945- 1967”) makes the front page of the New York Times, telling the world that four successive administrations had misled the American public about the war, and revealing that former secretary of defence Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) “knew we couldn’t win in 65 – that’s six goddam years ago!”
Widowed socialite and mother of four Katharine “Kay” Graham (Meryl Streep) is a close friend of McNamara. But she is also the proprietor-publisher of the Washington Post, whose editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is eager to pursue the Pentagon Papers story, despite an injunction against the Times. “Kay throws a great party,” says a colleague “but her father gave the paper to her husband” – a demeaning assessment shared by many of the belligerent men who surround Graham at work. Will she have the mettle to stand and fight for what is right, even if doing so puts the paper’s very existence at risk?
Written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (the latter’s newsworthy credits include newsroom films Spotlight and The Fifth Estate), The Post has been described by Hanks as a story “about the week Katharine Graham became ‘Katharine Graham’”. Certainly, Streep’s character provides the emotional fulcrum on which the drama turns. Time and again, Spielberg pictures her as the only woman in the room, initially disempowered. One early boardroom scene slyly echoes the cabinet meetings of Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady (also starring Streep), with Graham’s silence a sharp counterpoint to Margaret Thatcher’s strident confidence. But as the story progresses, Graham finds her own voice – hesitant at first, but increasingly firm and forthright.
As for Hanks, he captures the swashbuckling bravado of Bradlee (played by Jason Robards in All the President’s Men), who realises that the cosy relationship he has formerly shared with presidents must come to an end. With his chin-forward stance and ready-for-action manner, Hanks seems utterly at home amid the typewriter clatter of production designer Rick Carter’s newsroom sets. The 35mm film stock and muted colour palette add an authentic 70s patina to the visuals, with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski’s smartly choreographed cameras pursuing the film’s protagonists through halls and corridors with efficient panache. There’s a real frisson, too, to the printing-press scenes, as Spielberg drools over the hot-metal mechanics of newspaper production, taking tangible delight in the old-school workings of a Linotype machine.