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By midlandsmovies, May 5 2018 09:47AM

The Post (2018) Dir. Steven Spielberg

Is there anything worse than the comment “oh, it’s so the film we need right now”? I think not, and Spielberg doubles down on this statement and runs with it in his ‘analysis’ of the politics of 1970s newspaper journalists and their attempts to expose corruption, in his new flick The Post. In short, what we get is a few Oscar-worthy actors (Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks) idly going through their high-quality motions as they discuss the repercussions of the Washington Post publishing Vietnam secrets buried in the Pentagon Papers.

With Spielberg’s track record, you’d expect nothing less than a well-constructed film but I found its constant pandering to topical issues so heavy-handed that the obvious parallels with current concerns about the US administration were undermined by a rather obvious delivery.

Spielberg’s floating camera and long takes are noticeable as we follow the newspaper’s owner (Streep as Katharine Graham) who is shown having her words literally taken from her mouth by male colleagues at board meetings even though the newspaper is in her hands. Spielberg tackles sexual politics as well as governmental politics, as she is shown physically placed behind groups of males and pushed out of the picture. But once they get hold of these confidential papers, she rises to take a stand and prepares to defy the newspaper's lawyers and publish the damning documents.

Early on, the Washington Post are banned from covering the wedding of Richard Nixon’s daughter' which parallels Trump – who is another grandiose self-obsessed and ugly White House figure much like Nixon himself. A clever highlight for me was showing Nixon from a distance – literally spying on him – like he did on others, and was a great way to foreshadow Watergate along with the constant shady phone-calls throughout.

Alongside this, the actors are often framed in silhouette – with illumination coming from windows (a metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel) – whilst Spielberg also uses slow zooms to echo the surveillance style of The Conversation and other political thrillers from the time. A 4-way telephone conversation hints at crossed-wires and the soundtrack has a mix of John Williams echoing his own JFK melodramatic strings with some of his Catch Me If You Can retro style.

Spielberg’s masterful control of the medium is without peer and his close-ups of the intricacies of the printing press were a beautifully staged montage of a technology long-gone. And the endless piles of paper the journalists sift through are here today in an aternative electronic format as seen on Wikileaks. Old fashioned but still powerful.

It’s just that my personal taste is predisposed to be wary of “topical” films like this obvious attempt. And The Post feels very by-the-book. The movie comes along with a well-respected filmmaker choosing the most blatant of tropes – “Hey, Nixon is like Trump! These secret papers are like Wikileaks! Journalists are being oppressed today!” Relevent? Yes. Rather tedious and obvious to all? Sadly I’d argue yes again. And hugely to its detriment.

For me, it is so representative of his two-trick pony current output – political allegories like Bridge of Spies, Lincoln and War Horse and his sub-par CGI heavy flicks like Tintin, BFG and Ready Player One - as films that haven't touched me in the way his past classics have. The Post therefore ends up going through the motions like a well organised print of a newspaper and this rag is ultimately disposable at the end of the day.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 4 2016 09:25PM

Sully (2016) Dir. Clint Eastwood

After recently reviewing Snowden, the current trend of turning VERY recent events into big budget biographical films seems to be the rage in 2016 with the “Hero of the Hudson” being analysed in this new movie from Clint Eastwood.

If you didn’t know already, Tom Hanks plays airline pilot Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger who in 2009 steered an out of control airline into the Hudson river in New York which resulted in all 155 passengers surviving with just minor injuries.

The film follows this exciting tale and the subsequent air crash investigation and Hanks gives a great performance as a skilled, intelligent and measured man who never once seems to consider himself a hero in the conventional sense. Harrowing fantasy scenes of Sully’s PTSD are recreated in nightmares as we are shown CGI-heavy shots of the plane taking a different path and crashing into New York’s high rise buildings. Echoing previous events in the city’s troubled history these images served to shock but at the same time clarifies to the audience the expertise of the pilot in guiding the plane out of harm’s way.

As the investigations continue to doubt Sully’s version of events, Eastwood takes the viewer on a heavy handed flight which despite his best attempts at creating drama only had one conclusion it was going to end with. A schmaltzy finale where the investigators say their findings have been wrong is followed by footage of the real crash as a montage of the survivors greet each other at a reunion which was the worst kind of syrupy gloop – and felt more part of a TV special than cinematic experience.

With the final act showing Sully’s assertion that the plane was downed by a bird strike, Hanks continues his understated performance with aplomb with great support from Aaron Eckhart as co-pilot Jeffrey "Jeff" Skiles (who is nearly upstaged by his own ridiculous moustache).

Eastwood’s movie is pretty average on the whole and whilst he tries to extract drama from the investigator’s interviews with Sully and Skiles, it doesn’t quite work given that it was certainly clear from the outset this man was always going to be considered a hero no matter the why or how given the fact all survived.

With huge echoes of Robert Zemeckis’ fictional film “Flight”, Hanks is admittedly great but hasn’t got too much to work with and although I’ve enjoyed Eastwood’s simplicity in his previous works, I felt that aside from the tense plane crash scenes, the film’s outcome was pretty pre-determined. The need for additional drama was not attention grabbing enough and couldn’t overcome the inevitability of the well-known story. Therefore, Sully modestly sets the audience back down on a safe narrative landing in which you already know the conclusion.


Midlands Movies Mike

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