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Review by Tom Cooney
Streep. Hanks. Spielberg. Everyone has a favourite film from each, covering ground from The Devil Wears Prada to Saving Private Ryan. It would be easy for a cast and crew of this calibre to hack together a quick Oscar-baiting drama, guaranteed to make a buck from the sheer number of fans that they have collectively accrued over the years. Yet, this film is certainly not that. The Post tells the story of the Pentagon Papers: how, in the early 1970s, The Washington Post – lead by the first female publisher of a major American newspaper – exposed years of government secrets in relation to the Vietnam War. It’s an educational film that could have turned into a history lesson, but instead manages to maintain its cinematic steam throughout.
It almost feels redundant in today’s day-and-age to discuss how impressive both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks can be, nevertheless, it needs to be said. You may have rolled your eyes when Streep’s 21st Academy Award nomination was announced – the most for any actor in history – but you would be hard pressed to say that it is undeserved. She loses herself as Katharine Graham, embodying this woman’s growth from undermined timidity to an unwavering bravery, without such vast character development ever seeming forced. Hanks is almost equally impressive as the paper’s editor, Ben Bradlee – deserving the Oscar-nod that he didn’t receive this time around.
Despite their obvious gravitas, it isn’t just these veterans running the show here; actors who’ve been dominating the small screen in recent years shine in more minor roles. Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk delivers a standout performance as the admirable Ben Bagdikian, with Fargo and The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon adding her flair of humour into the mix. The only disappointment in the supporting cast is the criminally underused Sarah Paulson as Hanks’ wife, Tony Bradlee. You know you’re doing something wrong when you have an Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor laid asleep on the sofa and running around dispensing sandwiches.
It has been widely reported that The Post made the journey from script to final cut in an unprecedentedly short time of nine months. Spielberg himself has said that the reason he wanted to finish the film so quickly was that the audience of today have ‘been listening to this kind of bully-pulpit discrimination against the free press for long enough’. It’s a rebellion against the ‘fake news’ climate that has boomed in Trump’s America, and it gives the film a feeling of urgency not found in a Spielberg effort for many years. The Post isn’t simply a drop in the ocean of anti-Trump media – it has the star-power, political-pertinence and high-quality to open a clear dialogue on censorship today. And that’s no mean feat.