A furious POTUS attempts to prevent the publication of information that could threaten his presidency. No, it’s not a film about Michael Wolff’s controversial new book but rather the subject of Steven Spielberg’s latest film – and every bit as topical.
Before the Watergate scandal made headlines, the incendiary Pentagon Papers – revealing the US government knew that the Vietnam war was a lost cause yet still allowed soldiers’ lives to be lost – were leaked to the press and published by The New York Times in 1971. Consequently, the Nixon administration sought and won an injunction to prevent further publication of the damning evidence, citing a threat to national security.
Determined to uphold the First Amendment is Washington Post owner Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and her executive editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), who have obtained the top secret Department of Defence document and regard its publication both as a means to maintain the freedom of the press and elevate the newspaper to the journalistic big time. But with the legal minefield the exposé will create, and the company poised to be floated, they are faced with an almost impossible decision.
Spielberg’s effortless direction, with a focus on character and procedural detail, is the same no-fuss approach to historical drama he applied to Munich and Amistad. You could be forgiven for not recognising The Post as one of his films. He’s also working with one of the best casts he’s ever assembled. There’s the novelty of watching Streep and Hanks sharing the screen for the very first time, supported by a veritable who’s who of great actors from current television like Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Alison Brie and Sarah Paulson.
The Post is a bold print newsroom drama in the tradition of All the President’s Men (1976), Zodiac (2007), and the more recent Spotlight. And although not as gripping as the latter Oscar-winner, Spielberg does manage to build suspense through the reassembling of the jigsaw-like document (4,000 pages of it!), and the race against the clock to meet a looming deadline. However, some ponderous pacing and a heavy reliance on exposition frequently threatens to stop the press.
In cinemas: January 11, 2018
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk
Directed by: Steven Spielberg