If you were to ask somebody to put together a team that epitomised the magic and might of modern Hollywood, the chances are that the names Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks would rank high among the nominees. One of the world’s greatest actresses, one of the world’s most beloved actors and one of the world’s most revered film directors, the dynamic trio have more than forty Oscar nominations between them. It it is no surprise, then, that new political drama The Post, blessed with the talents of all three, has been receiving lots of recognition this awards season. With Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape Of Water leading the early charge, could the star power of The Post pose a last minute threat to the favourites?
The film tells the story of the Washington Post’s decision in the 1970s to publish articles detailing the Pentagon Papers, a leaked set of classified documents that detailed more than thirty years of government lies and deception around the Vietnam War. Owned by heiress Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) and helmed by editor in chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), the narrative explores the tensions and pressures of the high stakes world of journalism alongside the shady politics of Richard Nixon’s administration, with the added juice of Bradlee’s desire to expose a political scandal that features many of Graham’s closest friends at its core.
The first and most apt word that comes to mind when thinking about The Post is solid. Absolutely solid. The film isn’t sensational by any means, but the seal of quality that carries it both in front of the camera and behind it makes for a fulfilling and satisfying experience. Despite the widespread appeal of its stars, it has to be said that the film isn’t the most accessible of pictures. Certainly, those who are enthralled by threads of political scandal and intrigue and the ins and outs of serious journalism will find a lot to enjoy, but those who prefer their cinematic experiences to be a little more fast paced and action filled might find the dense content and politics heavy dialogue a little dry at times.
For somebody who has very little knowledge of the real life historical events, I didn’t find myself confused by or lost in the plot at any time, one of Spielberg’s greatest qualities being the ability to present any subject to any audience with just the right amount of exposition. The Post is about as slow burning as a film classed as a ‘political thriller’ can get, but there is something extremely enjoyable about the building tension of the narrative, a plot that takes the audience along for the ride, albeit not quite at the pace of a rollercoaster. That’s not to say, however, that the final third doesn’t deliver an exhilarating, justice filled finale. If you don’t leave the theatre wishing you were a hard hitting journo about to unleash a monster story, then you really haven’t got in to the spirit of things!
Meryl Streep, is, well, Meryl Streep. The living legend has gained a 22nd Oscar nomination for her role as Katherine Graham, continuing to break her own record with each new recognition. It must be said that the performance isn’t one of the most testing or iconic of Streep’s esteemed career, but there’s no denying that she brings her usual powerful presence and effortless quality to proceedings. Katherine Graham is portrayed as an initially shy figure who learns her own worth and finds her own conviction over the course of the plot, the only woman in a world of male executives who realises that trusting her own moral compass is the only way to go. It’s the sort of role that Meryl hits out of the park every single time.
Tom Hanks as Brad Bradlee oozes all of the fast talking, sharp witted, intelligent charisma that you would expect from a leading player in the political journalism game. Think a combination of Jeff Daniels in The Newsroom and John Spencer in The West Wing and you can see where Hanks is going with the role. It’s hard to believe that this is the first time the two Hollywood giants have shared the big screen, and it is an absolute delight to witness. Two performers so in control and effortless in the execution of their talents creating magic in every scene together. Worth the ticket price to see the very first (and hopefully not last) Streep and Hanks collaboration alone.
The supporting cast is made up of a team of excellent performers including Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, and Bruce Greenwood, all of whom bring their A game to provide the picture with glints of star quality even outside of the two central acting titans’ orbit.
Overall, The Post probably isn’t a film that is going to absolutely blow you away, but it is a film that is so filled with confident and assured quality that you can’t help but bask in the comfort of truly great filmmaking and acting. Alongside the concept of the picture as a singular piece of entertainment, the poignancy in the timing of its release is also something that cannot be ignored. A story about fighting for truth and justice against an unpopular administration committed to lying, illegality and covering up undesirable news by any means possible. Remind you of anything or anyone in particular?