* * * 1/2
There is a term certain critics use that’s quite fun: “wiggy.” It’s generally applied to films that are set in another period, and often to films portraying real people. The ultimate wiggy films are, for example, films where most, if not all the main characters look kind of ridiculous via the efforts the hair and make-up people have gone to make them look like their real-life counterparts.
The Post is very wiggy. It’s far more wiggy than Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which, on the surface, looked like a more likely candidate for top honours: crazy muttonchops, ludicrous sideburns, Lincoln’s beard (facial hair counts as “wig”). But Lincoln was a labour of love that Spielberg spent a very long time developing; it was long on the drawing boards and long in pre-production. I’m sure he had someone – paid, perhaps full-time – working on a bust of Daniel Day-Lewis from the moment the actor committed to the film, experimenting with wig.
By great contrast, The Post is Spielberg’s rapid response to Trump. It went from page to screen in nine months – an astonishingly quick process for a “Spielberg Film”, or any film. And so it’s quite wiggy, and rushed in other ways, because Mr. Spielberg – who knows what he’s doing, perhaps more than any other practitioner, of any industry, on the planet – made the decision early on that getting the film in theatres in order to reflect Trump’s War On The Press would – pardon me – trump the demands of perfectionism. Time was of the essence; perfect sideburns were not.
Working fast, Spielberg resorts to what he knows works; thus, at a moment of great decision, a camera slowly moves in on a Great Actor’s face. Would there be a more interesting way of doing the moment, something unexpected, understated, or even subversive? Undoubtedly. But Spielberg didn’t waste time. He captured a moment of Great Acting in a Spielbergian manner, and moved on.
The result, which plays like a prequel to All The President’s Men (1975), is spectacularly entertaining, in the way that Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws are spectacularly entertaining. Breathlessly paced, it’s a journalist-movie thrill ride. Spotlight, which won the Best Film Oscar two years ago, had far more nuance, character development and emotional heft. The Post has urgency, in spades. There is no reason not to see it. It is professional, angry, and fun.