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American films

Film review: The Post – Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep shine in Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers drama

Steven Spielberg’s drama brilliantly explores integrity-wrapped investigative journalism, as reporters dig into murky cover-ups in the Nixon administration, while Streep plays a lone female in power, locking horns with those around her

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 4:29pm

4/5 stars

Films like Munich, Amistad and Lincoln have shown that Steven Spielberg loves to dip into the history books, but he never made a movie set in the past with quite as much contemporary resonance as The Post. Set in 1971, it’s a story of integrity-wrapped investigative journalism, as reporters dig into murky cover-ups in the Nixon administration.

It’s pre-Watergate, when the American public was still innocent. But behind closed doors, the Vietnam war was going spectacularly wrong. Catalogued in the so-called Pentagon Papers, Spielberg’s film details just how these top-secret documents went public, despite the White House filing a court injunction to prevent publication.

The story is seen through the eyes of Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and the paper’s socialite publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) – curious given the Post was always playing catch-up with The New York Times, who broke the story. Perhaps Spielberg is paying tribute to the classic Post-set Watergate film All The President’s Men .

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In their first film together, Hanks and Streep gel impressively, but the cast around them – including Matthew Rhys, Bob Odenkirk and Bruce Greenwood – are just as robust. Methodically made, Spielberg injects real urgency into the film, which feels utterly relevant as we move into Donald Trump’s second year in office.

It’s also an impressive look at the way Graham, as a lone female in power, locked horns with those around her. With his usual cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and production designer Rick Carter recreating early 1970s America with élan, this is Spielberg at his most mature.

The Post opens on February 1

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