mon 20/05/2024

DVD/Blu-ray: The Post | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: The Post

DVD/Blu-ray: The Post

Streep, Hanks and Spielberg back the press at their best

Hold the front page: Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep)

Spielberg’s prequel to All the President’s Men was filmed at speed, and aimed squarely at the press-hating Trump, not the late Tricky Dick. This contemporary intent is already fading.

What remains is the director’s second return, after Munich, to the sort of Seventies conspiracy thriller dabbled in by his own great hits of the decade, Jaws and Close Encounters. The story of the 1971 exposé by government whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers, which revealed the US government’s true, knowingly doomed conduct in Vietnam, is framed here by a less important question: whether the underdog Washington Post’s publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) will ever scoop the New York Times.

As with the Civil War carnage at Lincoln’s start, Spielberg begins with Ellsberg in a Vietnam jungle fire-fight, giving us a glimpse of what it’s all about. A fixed camera pulls straight across the action, and what follows shows all the ways a master film-maker can work the angles to keep an essentially talky piece visually alive, while working at such a rate it almost counts as improv. His technique has been Hitchcock-level for some time, and how we’ll miss him when he’s gone.

Stepping into Jason Robards’ President’s Men shoes as Bradlee, Hanks is charismatic fun as the macho, “pirate” newspaperman with a John Wayne walk. “My God, the fun,” he rasps, a Bradlee catch-phrase at the thrill of the journalistic chase fully born out as he tries to give the Times and Nixon’s lawyers the slip. But it’s Streep’s film. The Post is Graham’s family’s firm, but hers only after her husband killed himself. Every vocal hitch and twitch in Streep’s arsenal helps her inhabit this hesitant, intimidated patrician, in a wholly sexist boardroom world.

There’s some on the nose speechifying in the last reel. The hardboiled romance of good journalism and clamminess of bad politics is otherwise often enthralling, helped by a fine supporting cast, especially Bob Odenkirk as a cigarette-croaky, ur-reporter. Filmed in 35mm and set in the year Spielberg shot his debut, Duel, it’s a finely simulated addendum to his Seventies filmography.   

The extras offer the real Ellsberg, and give Bradlee, Graham and the Post’s back-story. “The central thing about my mother is how self-doubting she was,” says Don Graham. There’s also a short piece on John Williams conducting his effective, sparingly used music - an under-score, really - in his 44th year of Spielberg service.

Spielberg's technique is Hitchcock-level, and how we’ll miss him when he’s gone


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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