Tuesday 11 December 2018

Cinema: The Post - a pertinent reminder of the power journalism once had in holding governments to account

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post
Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post
Barack Obama and Samantha Power

In June 1971, Katherine 'Kay' Graham (played here by Meryl Streep) was preparing to launch her family-owned newspaper, the Washington Post, on the stock exchange.

Her father had passed the business to her husband - and it was only after her spouse's suicide that Kay took over the reins, as a result, the only female newspaper publisher is deemed to be there by default rather than by talent. It is a belief she partly shares.

Floating on the stock market is important and risky so there is already much at stake when Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks) learns that their journalistic rivals at The New York Times are about to break a massive story.

The story the Times breaks becomes known as the Pentagon Papers - it reveals three decades and four presidents' worth of lying about the Vietnam War to the American public.

Nixon's administration is not best pleased with the revelations - there is an election in 1972 - so catching up with the story will carry both financial risk for the Post and personal social risk for Kay Graham.

Spielberg directs Streep and Hanks - and this US cinematic triumvirate, working together for the first time, delivers 'the big film' that one might expect.

The screenplay by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (who wrote Spotlight) does tell rather than show on occasion - but this works for such a complex tale which is told methodically, comprehensively and still comes in just under two hours.

Comparisons to All The President's Men are inevitable - but perhaps we should consider Alan Pakula's film to have been the story of the reporting, while the The Post is the story of the story.

It's also the story of Kay Graham and how she dealt with what was thrown at her in a very specific time. It's also a pertinent reminder of the power journalism once had in holding governments to account. And it's a great old yarn. ★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

The Final Year

Barack Obama and Samantha Power

Cert: Club; Selected cinemas

Imagine going for a coffee with somebody and by the end of that meeting, being so inspired you want to quit your job and devote yourself to them.

Picture setting off with them on an extraordinary journey to the White House presidency, placing family second so you can work around the clock as a top adviser in order to implement change in a fraught world.

And then imagine, in your final months in office, a vulgar, orange-faced demagogue bellowing to the world about how they want to undo each of your hard-won achievements over the past eight years.

This was the reality facing Obama's senior foreign policy advisers, UN ambassador Samantha Power, speechwriter Ben Rhodes and Secretary of State John Kerry. Knowing what we know now, it brings a pungent waft of drama to Greg Barker's documentary.

Barker had incredible access over 90 days in 2016, inside meeting rooms and aboard foreign trips alike, gauging the temperature of all three and of Mr Obama himself. Several moments stand out: Power addressing a room of new immigrants by tearfully recalling her own arrival to the US from Dublin at age nine; glimmers of that Irishness when leaning on other diplomats; Rhodes, one of the most lauded speechwriters of this century, at a loss for words when Trump is elected. The sheer idealism and drive is all the more remarkable given the tone we're faced with today.

An efficient snapshot with moments of greatness. ★★★ Hilary A White


Cert: PG; Now showing

Children's stories have long dealt in death with the presence of evil step-parents in particular focusing on tragedy and loss. Pixar's latest offering, Coco, focuses even more intently on death but brings to it a whole new perspective. 

The result is beautiful, sweet and moving, lovely for children and adults alike.

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12-year-old Mexican boy who is less than enamoured with his predestined future in the family shoe business.

He wants to be a musician like his hero, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), but since Miguel's great-grandfather abandoned his wife and daughter, Coco, for music, any and all tunes are banned in the family.

A row ensues which eventually results in Miguel finding himself in the gloriously beautiful Land of the Dead. It happens to be the Day of the Dead - the annual festival where the deceased can come back to the land of the living but Miguel cannot return without the blessing of a deceased family member.

While he seeks a dead relative, he meets ne'er do well Hector (voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal), long dead and almost forgotten whose only wish is to cross over and see his daughter one last time.

It requires a lot of exposition but it's well done and once complete, this gloriously animated, musically lovely and supremely Mexican visual feast flies along.

Local and universal, moving and funny, it's got massive appeal for all the family.

★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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