Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are stars on a stratospheric level. One gained both through their own critically acclaimed work, and because they are regarded off screen as genuinely lovely, warm-hearted, kind people. Which is why it’s remarkable, bordering on astounding to me, that these two icons have never worked together, though Hanks has produced at least one of Streep’s films.
‘The Post’ is just the ticket, the golden goose as it were, a project that connects these two charismatic and brilliant actors through feminism, humanity, journalism and freedom of speech. ‘The Post’ follows the discovery of classified papers detailing the truth behind the Vietnam war. That despite assurances from the government that the war was still very much in America’s favour, the truth was that even with the excessive amount of money and soldiers being poured into Vietnam, they failed to see any progress, merely keeping their heads just above the water. Once these classified documents were discovered, it became a fight for freedom of speech. The press wanted to inform the public about the truth of the war, whilst the Nixon administration wanted to control the information. Feeding the public a fabricated version of events for a war they already knew they could not win.
The recorded phone calls Nixon made at the time are used in the film, I believe this is also true for the rest the phone calls made, in particular for Bob Odenkirk’s character. A powerful authenticity that eclipses anything that could possibly have been created with prosthetics, which seems to be the current go to for character transformation. Wisely, we only ever see the back of Nixon in the Oval Office from an outside shot.
What is horribly unnerving are the similarities between Nixon’s dialogue and Trumps. Specifically, the last use of Nixon’s voice which demanded that all reporters be banned from The White House. A message which although basic, and far more articulate than Trump has ever been, is one that is interchangeable between the two men. Indeed, the film was completed before Trump was even inaugurated, and yet the similarities are staggering, with countless moments within the film mirroring news stories today, little wonder Spielberg rushed to have this made.
Like any good film, ‘The Post’ is more than the sum of its parts, it’s a film with a clear message about the necessity for press and freedom of speech, but it’s also a fiercely feminist piece. Meryl Streep plays Katherine Graham, a publisher whose family owns The Washington Post, a newspaper that not only covered this period of history but also the famous Watergate scandal. She is also a much beloved heroine of my mother’s, and it’s certainly not difficult to see why. The 1970s was a time when women retired to the sitting room during dinner parties to allow the men to discuss politics, even if one of those women did own a newspaper company. A time where there was an overwhelming abundance of men in every single meeting, all wearing very similar coloured suits to really enforce their presence in each room, like a swarm of fish, parting when a woman walks into the room.
Kay acquired the paper following her husband’s suicide, forcing her to quickly acclimatise. The film explores her growth in confidence, for although she is initially nervous and overwhelmed by her new position, it is also clear that she is fiercely intelligent and will not succumb to the those who wish to take advantage of her, simply because she is a woman. Her evolution as a character is fascinating to watch, and the film does an excellent job of depicting her nature within the confines of a film runtime. Whether it be her fierce loyalty and love for her family, or her friendships that she treats with love and care, she consistently remains firm in her own ideology and ethics.
As an actress Streep has a profound ability to be very human, an odd comment perhaps to make about an actual human, yet there is such a truth and authenticity in each of her scenes. Particularly in a film such as this, where she is constantly circled by sexist vultures, who wish to consume and control her at every turn.
There is a scene towards the end of the film, when a decision must be made whether The Washing Post will publish these documents. In this scene, Kay is sat at a table where she is surrounded by suits, all of whom are leaning over her, their faces turned towards her, hands in pockets. Vultures circling their victim, ready to attack. Yet when Kay makes her decision, she stands, turns away from the men, and her body language becomes that of confidence, of a free independent thinker, one who very much knows her own mind and more importantly is able to see the bigger picture.
The repertoire between Streep and Hanks is electric from their first scene together, they just play off one another, as seasoned actors of their calibre will do. So that your eyes constantly flick between them, simultaneously never wanting to miss a minute of either performance, and yet never wanting to take your eyes off either of them. Like Streep, Hanks has a remarkable ability to embody someone with very little physical adjustments. For I so detest those actors who say, wear fat suits to conceal their faces to embody the character. Sure, Hanks is perhaps wearing a hairpiece, and yet beyond that, his posture, mannerisms and voice and are that of Ben Bradlee. Indicative of an actor who knows his craft and trusts himself to deliver the performance on his own merit.
For those of you who, like me, are junkies for American politics, then consider a viewing of this film to be your next hit. For ‘The Post’ is a fast-paced, intelligent and necessary hit of journalistic endorphins, one that we need in these troublesome times. The press and freedom of speech are critical, if rampant today, with easy access to social media and blogs such as this. Because for every rambling dangerous tweet, press conference, or word said ‘in private’ that emerges from his obnoxious mouth, if The President is entitled to free speech, then we must never forget our own right to language and truth.
“The press is to serve the governed, not the government”
OVERALL ***** There is not a single dull moment, mistake, poor performance or moment of indulgence that I could see. What I did see were strong performances, intelligence, fast-paced, informative layered language, creative direction, feminism and raw humanity.
RECOMMENDATION – I think that this time, my last paragraph covers this.