3 (out of 4)
Though The Post and its creators risk very little unlike the journalistic minds the film depicts, Spielberg’s latest may be his best this past decade, rivaling Lincoln alone for his best recent crack at American history.
The legendary director has put together yet another singularly masterful film (within just a few months of another Spielberg joint of course), primed for the critics and the masses in equal measure. But manipulating historical facts for the sake of a nicely structured film can't be taken so lightly, especially in the Trump era. Several folks at the New York Times have criticized the film for inflating the Washington Post's significance in breaking classified Vietnam war documents to the public. Ironic as it may be for a newspaper movie to play so fast and loose with the facts, The Post is much more about ethics than accuracy – the film nonetheless seeks to justify the right to publish rather than exactly what is published.
As cinema alone though, The Post makes Spotlight, 2015's Best Picture winner, look like a glorified TV movie. The prolific pairing of Spielberg and his longtime collaborator and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski works its usual wonders without a hiccup; The Post's camerawork is fluent and often breathtakingly cinematic.
Between the spy/revenge vibrations of 2005's Munich and the political drama of Lincoln, The Post lands in the middle as a sophisticated, tightly constructed thriller and easily one of the most entertaining journalism films to date. The 10-hour window for publishing once the WaPo gets their hands on more than half of the 7,000 plus pages of classified documents catalyzes plenty of back and forth on truthfulness and accountability as well as an effective ticking clock element.
The film's ensemble is also excellent from top to bottom as well. Tom Hanks was bested for Best Actor recognition but he goes through more than the motions as as the titular paper's grouchy Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee. Meryl Streep has only to star in a movie to receive attention from the Academy, and her performance here is no more than fine. The cast is remarkably well-suited for the material and Spielberg, like he always does, gets great takes and superb performances out of damn near every facet of the sizable supporting cast.
It may be the smoothest liberal handjob of the year's Oscar contenders, but at least The Post doesn't overtly draw parallels between adapted history and today's 1st Amendment politics, as much as the obvious and uncomfortably timely echoes are there. The hoopla of Watergate that followed the events of the film feels tacked on as an ending to The Post, but its a keen reminder that despite the trend of corruption and lies at the highest levels of government, reporters will always be there to loudly and diligently dig up the truth. Over time, the relevancy of this film will hopefully be in its expert craft and timeless moral compass more than its reflection of the era.
3 1/2 (out of 4)
Only the eighth film for essentially the Stanley Kubrick of the age, Paul Thomas Anderson returns from the most complex breather of all time – the wildly underrated and profusely entertaining Inherent Vice – to more dramatic features geared towards challenging the current form of film as we know it.
Daniel Day-Lewis is magnificent as fastidious fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock, overshadowed only by his own work with PTA a decade ago as the now legendary Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Crafting tonally ambiguous films that are difficult to fully digest without repeat viewings is what Anderson is best at, and Phantom Thread, while relatively straightforward, is still uniquely elusive given its lack of epic experimental conception – something the director's pushed more heavily with each film. The film’s closest cousins to the rest of Anderson’s filmography are surely Punch-Drunk Love and The Master, taking the former's unorthodox romance and the dominant-recessive relationship between its two leads from the latter. Many an Anderson film will feature toxic relationships, but Phantom Thread takes the cake for being the easiest one to identify and the most bewildering to comprehend.
Creating a montage of the finer emotions that go along with love and the celebration of one’s muse, Anderson purposely muddies the quixotic splendor by closely studying the role that repulsion and dissatisfaction play in our most indispensable relationships. Phantom Thread brushes the line of psychological thriller in a few moments but is otherwise a somber tale of a perfectionist, his dearest partner, and their joint quest for the sublimity of high fashion. Ironically, for studying a most persnickety man of patrician taste, technically speaking this is one of the least meticulous of Anderson’s efforts – in shooting there was no mainstay DP in what was described as a group effort. Even his last film, the narratively dense stoner noir comedy, felt more coherent in adapting Thomas Pynchon's challenging novel.
But for as reticently inscrutable as his new film is, subsequent viewings will likely reveal more and Anderson’s most divisive choices will begin to feel right. I was not warmly receptive of The Master and Inherent Vice on first watch, but they've both become personal favorites; regardless I don’t want to give Phantom Thread too much undue credit. The subtext and psychology lingering beneath this film, waiting to be unearthed and appreciated, doesn't dilute the immediate effect of this subdued and most peculiar love story.
To keep it brief...