Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

tv + film by Philbert Dy

Frailty Fuels ‘The Post’

Though a little unfocused, Spielberg’s latest delivers a message worth hearing

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The Post mainly takes place in 1971 and deals with the events surrounding the Washington Post’s publication of the Pentagon Papers. Publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) is preparing to take the company public, and she’s struggling with the perception of her as the owner of the paper. The Pentagon Papers are leaked, and the New York Times gets the scoop. Executive editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and his newsroom try to catch up with them, when an injunction keeps the New York paper from publishing anything more about leaked study. When the Post gets a copy of the Pentagon Papers, they are presented with a difficult choice: risk the government’s wrath by publishing, or ensure the survival of the newspaper by holding off.

It is a little odd that a film about the publication of the Pentagon Papers would focus so much on the Washington Post, when the bulk of the activity surrounding that particular chapter of American history happened at another paper. But it turns out that The Post isn’t really a movie about the leak. It isn’t really about the kind of heroic journalism as seen in movies like All the President’s Men or Spotlight. It is instead a story of personal frailties giving way to a greater cause. The film lays it on pretty thick, but in the end the movie delivers a message worth hearing.

The dramatic core of the film lies in the relationships between people in power and the people that are meant to keep them in check. The film posits that what ultimately unites the socialite publisher Kay Graham and the gruff editor Ben Bradlee is that they have both to some degree compromised their integrity through their friendships with people in government. This puts the Washington Post in an interesting light: it still seen as a local paper back then, and the sheer proximity of its journalists to the seats of power implies a certain level of familiarity not afforded to any other publication. In building the story on a foundation of weakness and compromise, the film projects a compelling arc.

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Not all of it is successful. The movie at times still falls into the trap of inflating the Washington Post’s role in this incident. The film is better when it downplays the uplifting rhetoric and instead focuses on the personal struggles of these characters. The movie as a whole plays things broadly, but it’s all easier to swallow when the film really drills down on the frailties of these characters: Graham, who at this point still feels unsure of herself, and Bradlee, who at first seems to be as dismissive of Graham as everyone else.

The acting is good, but that’s the only possible result given who was cast in this film. If anything, it feels like the movie loses something by playing things a little safe. But yes, Meryl Streep continues to exhibit a level of talent that is pretty unimpeachable, and Tom Hanks puts up a fine performance that only pales in comparison to Jason Robards’ earlier portrayal of Bradlee. The supporting cast offers up an even greater embarrassment of riches, with the likes of Bob Odenkirk, Jesse Plemmons, Tracy Letts, and Michael Stuhlbarg lighting up the scenes that they’re in. Matthew Rhys shines the hardest playing Dan Ellsberg, his studied intensity giving weight to the film’s central event.

The Post does feel a little unfocused at times. The Pentagon Papers hold the story together, but the connections it holds are tenuous at best. There are other things that the film seems to want to say, other issues it wants to tackle in bits and pieces of narrative. And they don’t always resolve in a satisfying way. It is probably worth noting that this film seems to have been rushed into production, and some of its pieces don’t quite feel as polished as they could be. But it was rushed for a reason: it’s a film that speaks directly of our times, in a world where government seems to be taking an increasingly adversarial posture against the press. It’s a story that’s worth telling right now, even if the telling of it isn’t quite as perfect as it could be.

THE POST IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

The Future is Farfetched in ‘The Circle’

This story falls apart when it tries to imagine the world beyond now.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsThe Circle follows a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson), who has just landed a job at the Google-like company that the title is referring to. It is by all appearances a dream job: her workplace is a massive campus that offers all manner of amenities and perks, including health care for her MS-stricken father (Bill Paxton). But there does seem to be something strange going on underneath the high-tech veneer of The Circle, and Mae soon finds herself at the center of all of it as she gets more involved in the vision of the future that the company espouses.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.49.21 PMThe film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Dave Eggers. It’s a little tough to pin down the form that the movie eventually takes. It kind of feels like it’s taking on the appearance of a thriller, but the plot doesn’t really bear that out. It could play as a cautionary tale about the kind of ethical overreach that tech culture seems to naturally result in. But again, the plot seems to fall short in expressing these fairly simple ideas. The movie mainly works best as a satire of the evangelical aspects of the corporate tech sector, its scenes capturing a very specific slice of absurd reality that we face day to day. But the story gets lost when it starts to extrapolate from there.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.48.06 PMSome of the most compelling parts of the movie involve the depiction of the general culture around the fictional company. The film cuts through some of the more bizarre aspects of working in one of these massive tech firms, which seem to have weaponized fun as a way to keep employees in line. There is potent venom in scenes that uncover the aggression and coltishness that lies just beneath the seemingly utopian confines of the campus.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.46.02 PMBut as amusing as those scenes are, they aren’t what the plot is ultimately about. The film makes a turn for the sinister, except it doesn’t really do that well at all. There is a sense that something evil is going on, but even the movie itself doesn’t seem entirely convinced of that. The scenarios of abuse it comes up with are pretty underwhelming, the movie taking leave of its verisimilitude as it imagines applications of technology that don’t really make much sense. And it all just leads to an equally underwhelming resolution that doesn’t really involve any sort of tension or danger for the protagonist.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.47.44 PMWhen you get down to the details, there’s stuff to like. The movie will often display both verbal and visual wit in many of its scenes. The way it realizes Mae’s interaction with social media, for example, is quite cleverly done. But when the movie tries to convey its big ideas, it gets terribly uncreative. It becomes a bunch of scenes of people talking about farfetched hypotheticals without any sense of the greater complexities involved. The material gets really weak, and that really hobbles the actors. Emma Watson seems to struggle with who Mae is, the character so easily swayed that there doesn’t really seem to be a person there.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.47.33 PMThe Circle doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. There are certainly things to be concerned about when we talk about the giant tech companies and their cavalier attitudes towards privacy. But the film addresses these concerns poorly, never doing adequate work in crafting a convincing scenario that would justify the narrative paranoia. It ends up relying on a clumsy dichotomy that exists in a relationship that wasn’t very fleshed out to begin with. The movie works better in scenes that imagine the present, and the absurdities that we are already all facing.

THE CIRCLE IS NOW PLAYING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.