- Colin Fraser
THREE AND A HALF STARS The future changes for a small newspaper when handed explosive state secrets.
Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks
PERIOD DRAMA #THPOSTMOVIE
In 1971, The Washington Post newspaper came of age. Owned by Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) who had unexpectedly come to the position following the death of her husband, she was determined to keep the family business afloat. Meanwhile her editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) was determined to turn it from a media sideshow into a dominant force. They both got their chance when leaked state documents fell into their laps, documents which revealed a cover-up that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents: The Pentagon Papers. But first Graham and Bradlee had to fend off Nixon’s white house which wasn’t about to let them publish their dirty secrets without a fight.
With the history lesson over, is THE POST any good? Well, yes. Stellar leads are supported by Bruce Greenwood and Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk among others, with Steven Spielberg distilling this 70’s story through a 70’s prism - you’d be excused for thinking it had been made 40 years ago. As you’d expect, it is rock solid drama that doesn’t put a foot wrong, assuming you can absorb the director’s inevitable flourishes of social commentary - the underlying feminist beat is supported by superfluous shots that are stacked with right-on women for instance. Or how free press was just as precarious then as now. The film may wear it’s politics on the sleeve but A) that’s Spielberg and B) see above re 70’s prism. Besides, there are times when a hammer really is the only tool for the job.
THE POST's energetic story line has Hanks and Streep in fine form, clearly relishing the opportunity to work together for the first time. Scene by scene, Graham transforms from unlikely owner to woman in charge. She gives THE POST depth of character while Bradlee provides the deep drama as Spielberg leverages both to ratchet up agreeably manipulated tension. Surprisingly so given how well documented, and manipulated, the outcome is. Yet it has become his trademark and is a minor quibble from an otherwise enthralling, engaging and enlightening film.