Magazine article Variety

The Post

Magazine article Variety

The Post

Article excerpt

FILM REVIEW

The Post

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg

Steven Spielberg's "The Post" throttles along in a pleasurably bustling, down-to-the-timelyminute way. It's a heady, jampacked docudrama that, with confidence and great filmmaking verve (though not what you'd call an excess of nuance), tells a vital American story of history, journalism, politics and the way those things came together over a couple of fateful weeks in the summer of 1971. That's when The New York Times, followed by The Washington Post, published extensive excerpts from the Pentagon Papers: the top-secret government history of the Vietnam War that revealed, for the first time, the lies told to the American people about U.S. involvement in Indochina dating back to 1945. (Most destructive lie: the hiding of the fact that U.S. leaders knew the war was a losing battle.)

The heart of the movie is set at the Post, where the paper's executive editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), with his urbane rasp, aristocrat-in-shirtsleeves mystique and a bite more forceful than his bark, and Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the paper's wily socialite patrician publisher, square offlike a couple of sparring partners who won't let their being on the same side stop them from trading punches. Their contentious camaraderie is highly entertaining, and so is the whole movie, which pulses ahead like a detective yarn for news junkies, one that crackles with present-day parallels.

In 1971, following the public revelation of the Pentagon Papers, both the Times and the Post stood tall against an injunction, filed by the Nixon White House, to cease publication of the classified documents - an attempt at legal clampdown that could well have snuffed the Fourth Estate as we know it. "The Post" offers not so much a message as a warning: Freedom of the press is a fight that never stops.

The gold standard for this sort of truelife journalistic muckraking is, of course, "All the President's Men," a movie that tapped the alternating current of corruption and idealism that defined the '70s. "The Post," by contrast, seems to be set in some fetishistic museum-piece re-creation of that decade, with every drag on a cigarette calling too much attention to itself, too many "casually" signposted references to dinner-party mainstays like "Scotty" Reston and Lawrence Durrell, and too many actors wearing wigs that are visibly wigs (prime culprit: Michael Stuhlbarg, in a way-too-shiny mop, as The New York Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal). …

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