Spielberg shows here that he can still really deliver when he keeps a tight rein on his sentimental side. I found this film better than just 'good' - yet somehow not having quite the sharp bite that the last major journalistic film had, namely 'Spotlight' of 2015. That's perhaps to do with the subject matter of the latter being right up to date (Catholic Church cover-up of child molestation by clergy - still just as topical even now!) and this present film dealing with an historical event (1971), albeit with very pertinent resonances to today relating to control of the press by the American President.
Meryl Streep (that well-known actress described as over-rated by you-know-who) is Kay Graham who has just become head of 'The Washington Post' and is plunged into a baptism of fire. She and her lead reporter Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks, smoking more than I've ever seen him before - in fact, that I recall him doing at all since his self-celebratory cigar in 'Philadelphia') get wind of a crisis looming at neighbouring 'New York Times'.
Background is 'The Pentagon Papers', the results of a study commissioned way back in the 1940s by then President F.D.Roosevelt into the feasibility of winning the then Indo-China War which morphed into the VietNam War. The conclusion was that victory against the Communist forces was well nigh impossible. Successive administrations under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and right up to then President Nixon had all colluded to keep the results secret from the public while futilely continuing to send out hundreds of thousands of troops, many thousands to their deaths and many more coming back with life-maiming injuries, all under the public deception that America was winning. No President wanted to be the one who was seen to be in charge when defeat came.
The White House discovers that the N.Y.Times has received copies of that report and intends to publish the story, so Nixon weighs in with forceful threats of dire consequences of wholesale prison terms if they go ahead. Graham and Bradlee (Streep and Hanks) are watching on the sidelines until they themselves receive the very same source material - and so the question becomes one of should they then publish, irrespective of which way the 'Times' decides to go, though especially if the Times decides not to go ahead.
The tension in the film grows quite effectively, though the subject being historical, it lacks the present-day indignation which I'd felt in the 'Spotlight' film, and it therefore was not like being screwed to quite the same high level pitch.
The acting is as remarkable as one might expect from its two main stars, though seeing Streep transform in the course of the film from a slightly nervous and gauche novice company head among all-male work colleagues and board meetings, into someone with a confident mind of her own, was a object lesson for an actor's 'how-to-do-it' manual.
It's a significant film, not without ever-growing relevance to today's politics, and everyone comes out of it well. I'll be surprised if it fails to pick up the Oscar or two it deserves, though if it happens it'll probably be in the 'lesser' categories. Nevertheless, 'The Post' gets my unequivocal approval......................7.5.
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