Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Post (2018)

Image is property of DreamWorks Pictures, Universal and 20th Century Fox

The Post – Film Review

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: When classified government documents concerning the Vietnam War end up in the hands of journalists for The Washington Post, they must decide whether to risk their careers and the paper’s legacy and publish these documents, whilst risking the wrath of the United States Government.

Review: There is something to be admired about those people who go above and beyond to try and report the facts in this crazy world we live in, especially at a time when journalists in this day and age find themselves under intense scrutiny. As so many people, especially certain world leaders, just dismiss stories about them that paint them in a negative light. Yet, the work these people do plays such a vital role in our society, and that cannot be ignored, especially when the work of journalists .

Indeed, the work of journalists has helped to break some pretty major stories like the enormous scandal that engulfed the Catholic Church, making films such as this and 2015’s Spotlight feel extremely relevant in today’s society. When some government secrets that reveal some shocking truths concerning the US Government and the Vietnam War fall into the hands of The New York Times, the US Government forbids them from running any further stories. When the same documents fall into the hands of The Washington Post, the editor Ben Bradlee debates with the paper’s first female owner Katharine Graham as to whether these documents should be published.

In much the same way that Spotlight was a very dialogue driven film, The Post follows in that manner. Therefore the screenplay has to be of a very high calibre, and that quality is ably provided by Spotlight’s scribe Josh Singer as well as Liz Hannah, marking her first foray into screenplay writing. Though the first half of the film delves into newspapers and business, it does mean that unless you’re extremely well versed in the worlds of newspapers, business, stocks and shares, then this could feel a little bit over-whelming. However, once we get to the small matter of whether the story should become front page news, is where it becomes very intriguing to watch.

Under the guidance of such a masterful director like Spielberg, the performances of everyone really shine. Yet in news that should not be surprising to anyone, the limelight belongs to Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks (more the former than the latter though). It is fascinating two of the biggest actors in the business, who had never worked together prior to this film, engage in some deep discussions about whether or not the decision is made to go to print. With this role banking her a 21st Oscar nomination, it’s little wonder that Streep is regarded as one of the finest women to ever grace the big screen, as no matter what the role is, she never fails to impress. Much like Streep, Hanks almost always impresses and as Ben Bradlee, the man who helped break the infamous Watergate scandal, he’s a man who is absolutely committed to telling the public what he feels they have the right to know.

Though the script doesn’t fully portray the important role that The New York Times played in the leaking of the documents, it does remind everyone that at such times when the press is under such fierce criticism, that this industry and indeed these people serve a role that needs to be respected. Otherwise politicians would try to  to sweep certain things under the rug. Though the film doesn’t carry the emotional sucker punch like Spotlight did, the key message about journalism integrity and the commitment to the truth retains its indispensable value to our society and our democracy.

Assured direction from Spielberg, and strong performances from Streep and Hanks ensure this trio of extraordinary talents provide a timely reminder of the power of the press and the fundamental aspects of a democracy.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spotlight (2015)

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Spotlight – Film Review

Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Brian D’Arcy James

Director: Tom McCarthy

Synopsis:  Telling the true story of a group of journalists working for the Boston Globe newspaper who uncover the horrific details of child molestation at the hands of Catholic priests and the subsequent attempts to hush everything up.

Review: Every so often in the world of news and current affairs, along comes a story that is so shocking and galling for a number of reasons, it would cause you to read your newspaper, watch your television, or listen to the radio with just disbelief and horror that such an event came to pass. Many stories revealing such wickedness often slip under the radar, and do not see the light of day, and that may have been the case for the subject of this powerful drama of the scandal that rocked not only the Catholic Church, but the entire world to its core. It may well have not reached the public’s attention, if it wasn’t for the grit and graft of some brave journalists.

The screenplay, penned by McCarthy and Josh Singer, which was on the 2013 Black List of unproduced screenplays pulls no punches whatsoever. The story is gripping, and disturbing at the same time. When nudged by an incoming new editor in the direction of the scandal, the team of journalists quickly begin to find something deeply disturbing, and as the film goes on, interview after interview, the full extent of the scandal emerges on the team and the full realisation of the crimes that have been committed come into view.  The dialogue scene to scene keeps the attention of the viewer transfixed on the screen. With each conversation, whether with a lawyer, some victims, some people within the church, or whoever it may be, the team show great tenacity to dig deeper and deeper scratching every surface they can until there’s a story for them to run. It’s a dialogue driven film, but when it’s written this well, it’s riveting to watch.

The ensemble cast each deliver truly excellent performances, but it’s the performances of the Spotlight team in particular that shine the brightest. After his Oscar nominated turn as a washed up superhero in Birdman, Michael Keaton delivers another excellent performance as the editor of the team that comprises of Rachel McAdams’s Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes and Brian D’Arcy James’s Matt Carroll with John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. and Liev Schreiber’s newly appointed editor Marty Baron keeping a watchful eye over things. All excel but the standout performances are that of Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, who have both gained well earned Oscar nominations for the Best Supporting Actor and Actress respectively. Ruffalo in particular has an almost Hulk-esque moment at one point when the full depravity of the scandal comes becomes very crystal clear.

With such a delicate and controversial subject matter, approaching this film cannot have been easy for McCarthy and Singer, yet it is handled tremendously well. The direction is subtle but it emphasises is firmly on the need for justice for the victims. The reporters are not patting themselves on the back and having a drink celebrating at such a big scoop, instead they’re just aghast at what they have observed during their investigation. It is uncompromisingly brutal when the penny drops and there is a need and a desire to print their story and bring the perpetrators to full justice. In this day and age when the internet is taking over the journalism and publishing industry, it just goes to show that through real grit, determination and hard work, shocking truths such as these, can be brought to the attention of the public, and full credit to the brave journalists who did so.

Uncompromisingly brutal when it comes to the subject matter, with terrific performances and excellent well written dialogue, Spotlight will shake you to your core.

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