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In a world of fake news and government threatening the free press, comes a film about real news and government threatening the fake news. Thus, announces imaginary gravelly voiced trailer man, emerges The Post, Steven Spielberg’s urgent and gripping thriller about the challenges faced by the Washington Post in 1971 over the Pentagon Papers. This extraordinary collection of documents recounted decades of deceitful activity by the US government, and the film skilfully takes the viewer through the drama that ranges from the newsroom to the White House to the homes of Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and owner Kay Graham (Meryl Streep). Spielberg opts for a mobile approach, long tracking shots mirroring the flow of news, especially through the office of the Post where typewriters clack, phones slam and noise never drops below that of a major hubbub. Within this, Bradlee is a constant source of bluster, Hanks delivering a barnstorming performance that would be intimidating and annoying were it not so heartfelt and passionate. Equally passionate but more reserved is Streep’s Graham, her calm contrasting brilliantly with Bradlee’s bombast. Graham’s is the arc of The Post, and the film smartly never overplays this feminist subtext. Minor characters often dismiss Graham because of her gender but rather than emphasising those attitudes, Spielberg concentrates on Graham, placing her narratively and visually at the centre of the drama. She often appears literally and figuratively surrounded by men, all trying to persuade her before she makes her own, carefully considered decision. In one moment after making such a decision, Graham walks through a crowd where women’s faces appear prominently, the film again expressing the significance of woman’s voice without labouring the point. The more malevolent voice of the state, here represented by Richard Nixon whose administration took the Post as well as the New York Times to court over the Pentagon Papers, appears in long shot and behind windows, the President isolated and barking orders even while alternative voices challenge him. This is a key message of The Post – all voices must be heard and neither the state nor powerful individuals can silence them. The contemporary relevance of The Post is obvious, but its strength as a piece of cinema means it is also likely to serve as a long-term reminder of the importance and power of the press.
“My name is Mad. My world is fire,” growls Max Rockatansky’s (Tom Hardy) opening voiceover of George Miller’s return to the Mad Max franchise after thirty years. For the next two hours, the viewer encounters this fire in all its blistering, barraging, petrol-fuelled mayhem, resulting in one of the most relentless action movies of recent years. There is a dazzling beauty to Miller’s action choreography, the camera both sweeping around the pimped-up vehicles that tear through the post-apocalyptic landscape and yanking the viewer into the heart of the deafening chases and brutal encounters between flesh, metal, rock and flame. Hardy brings a world-weary indomitableness to the role of Max, leaving the dramatic thrust of the narrative to Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. Furiosa’s arc has been the source of some controversy over the apparent feminist invasion of a “man’s film”. Frankly, more active roles for women are always something to be applauded and Furiosa makes an excellent protagonist as well as a fine foil to Max. Her altruism and his nihilism are contrasting but complementary beliefs in a fragmented and pitiless world. This balance of the genders is further reason to admire Mad Max: Fury Road, as it means the film largely avoids the sexism so depressingly familiar in action cinema. It is unlikely to herald a new dawn, but for its running time the film is a gripping and refreshing contribution to the genre.