Steven Spielberg had the shortest production schedule of his career, in which to shoot this brilliant political thriller, which tells the true story of The Washington Post’s discovery of the infamous ‘Pentagon Papers’ - an extensive document detailing how the US. Government had been lying about its success rate in the ongoing Vietnam War.
It’s set in 1971, at the height of the highly controversial Nixon administration - and demonstrates just how systemic the levels of corruption and collusion were. Its themes of media plurality, questionable authenticity and gender inequality, are made doubly fascinating and ever more presciently topical - in a way they were never expected to - with our current political climate of desensitisation in the era of so-called ‘fake news’, abuses of power and the pay-gap.
It stars Meryl Streep as the head of The Washington Post, Kay Graham. Strong, vulnerable and with an indeterminable inner-steel, she's forced to make the toughest of choices, in a profession dominated by men.
It’s another absolutely fantastic (and twenty-first Oscar-nominated) performance by Streep: her expert timing, delivery and brilliant use of pauses ensure that her face is a continual tapestry of emotion.
Tom Hanks also brings a certain robustness to Ben Bradlee, the newspaperman who, in one pivotal exchange, reiterates to Graham just how critical the situation is: ‘What’re you going to do - Mrs. Graham?…’.
With fantastic pacing, urgency and an eye for every conceivable detail, Spielberg succeeds in making another of his powerfully polemic, more politic films, which instead of feeling heavily weighed down by talky exposition, is executed in thoroughly entertaining and totally gripping style - just as he did with the equally glorious Lincoln, which chronicled another momentous milestone in human history.
Cinematographer Janusz Kamanski and editor Michael Kahn, ratchet up the tension in one central sequence in particular, where all parties are on ends of telephones having to make the pivotal decision of whether or not to publish the papers. The camera does a birds-eye 360-degree chandelier swoop around the room…
John Williams’s score, also encapsulates the icy chill of paranoia and covert secrecy…
Rating: * * * *