26 January 2018.
THE POST (The Pentagon Papers) ****
Stephen Spielberg must be a good man. It’s simply obvious in his filmography: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND; SCHINDLER’S LIST; AMISTAD; LINCOLN; SAVING PRIVATE RYAN; BRIDGE OF SPIES; etc. etc. He always has his audience in mind – offering them worthwhile, historical themes, or thrilling moments to make them forget dull reality for awhile, as in E.T.; CATCH ME IF YOU CAN; INDIANA JONES; WAR HORSE; JURASSIC PARK, MINORITY REPORT or A.I. That’s what true cinema is all about, depth plus entertainment. And here, he’s done it again.
For there are films that simply elevate one – both as a human and as an avid audience. They hold one’s attention from the get-go and don’t let go, even when the film ends, so strongly do they impress and grip one’s imagination.
And ‘The Post’ has it all: the historic moment of the lengthy Vietnam War and the hidden, scandalous McNamara/Pentagon documents pertaining to it; the actors, Meryl Streep as Katherine Graham, the legendary heiress, socialite and publisher of The Washington Post, and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, her feisty, fearless editor, friends to the Kennedys and such.
It has one of the finest cinematographers, a long-time Spielberg collaborator, the Polish Janusz Kaminski. For its both delicate and stirring music, it has the legendary 41 times Oscar-nominated, 5 times winner, John Williams. But above all, it has Spielberg’s sense of cutting, timing and drama that gives full credibility to such an important subject – freedom of the press in a democratic society. And how timely it is, in our turbulent, fragile times. This is a film of integrity, of higher truths more essential than just the quest for power and financial benefits.
If you watch it carefully, it will make you a better, more hopeful person. At least momentarily. The one problem for European or other non-American audiences is that they may not catch the full force of its narrative since they will not be completely familiar with the various key, real-life protagonists. But that does not take away from its greatness. Even though I loved “Three Billboards…”, I would say ‘The Post’ deserves the Oscar, for its idealistic grandeur. But it has a very slim chance.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN **
This tale of the flamboyant entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman, is a musical that never stops.
And that’s its weakness – it’s too eager to tell the true life story of the self-made man who strove for his wildest dreams of creating a circus, and reached them, through thick and thin. But its bluster and overwrought energy become quickly tiresome and terribly clichéd. It looks like it should be on Broadway rather than on the screen, with all its cardboard characters.
The heavy-handed storytelling is somewhat saved by some of the fine musical numbers, especially the song, ‘This is Me’, which won the Golden Globe and will probably win the Oscar for best song.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.