The Post Review

What I assume will be my last belated review from 2017, The Post was one of the more politically motivated (and dividing) films of the year.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, The Post focuses on American newspaper publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), who recently inherited ownership of the Washington Post. Graham works feverishly with editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) in an attempt to play catch-up with The New York Times, who just exposed a massive government secret spanning decades.  This secret, known today as the Pentagon Papers, detailed the United States’ military interests in Vietnam, even years before military action took place. This included major lies from four U.S. presidents, government deception of the public, and even the acknowledgement that we might not win the war if the U.S. decided to fight.

So, when the Nixon administration tried to silence the news media by making the papers illegal to publish, The Washington Post throws it all on the line for their right to bring this information to the public eye.

When it comes to The Posts storytelling capabilities, they happened to be both powerful and conventional. Spielberg has this natural style of filmmaking that’s always so engaging, with the ability to suck viewers into the most mundane of scenes. That ability translates over nicely in The Post, which stays interesting, topical, and compelled. Scenes are shot with some variety, and the actors were motivated to give their all.

That being said, The Post doesn’t really throw anything new into the mix. We’ve seen biographical dramas on journalism before, and The Post didn’t really stand out as being revolutionary (as many critics would have you believe). How The Post stands the test of time has of course yet to be seen. It’s messages and themes about the government attempting to censor and control the media are undeniably topical, for the moment. But its methods are so similar to films like Spotlight that I’m skeptical how well it will age. A lot of The Post’s critical praise has come from its relevancy to the current U.S. administration, but without that context I’m afraid that it won’t stand as strong.

At the very least, The Post is a well-directed and intriguing drama, with passionate performances from Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Beyond this, I’m not sure if The Post is  award-winning material.

The Verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint

The Circle Review

The Circle is a tremendously messy film that severely lacks in intelligence and wit.

The film stars Emma Watson as Mae, a young girl who gets an entry level position at a powerful technology company called The Circle. Very quickly, Mae gets involved in The Circle’s groundbreaking technological experiments that test the limits of public privacy (similar to corporations like Google or Facebook). As her notoriety increases, Mae begins feeling pressure from the president of The Circle, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), to continue pushing the size and scope of the company even further.

The first issue I took with The Circle is the concept, as I knew exactly what the film was going to entail from square one. Within the first twenty minutes, you can guess exactly where the plot will go, what will happen to the characters, and what the ham-fisted moral of the story is.  There were zero surprises in store for the audience. At least, nothing you couldn’t guess ten minutes ahead of time.

The actors and actresses in the film are doing their absolute best with what they’re given, but it all comes off as cheesy in the worst way possible. I even found Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton, two usually phenomenal actors, to be off their game.

Emma Watson’s character of Mae starts off pretty strong in the first act, however quickly simmers out as the story progresses. The main problem was her motives, as she was written very lopsided and inconsistently. At some points, Mae would realize how horrible The Circle is, and how taking away an individual’s privacy is bad. At other points however, she was an innovator in the company! She would constantly recommend new ways The Circle could weasel their way into other people’s lives. What were the filmmakers going for? Why write her character so erratically? It made no sense to me, and I’m sure it will confuse many other moviegoers as well.

The ending of The Circle was incredibly disappointing, even by its own standards. I felt like anything the film may have been trying to say was immediately extinguished by this ending. I left the theater very confused with the convoluted and vague conclusion this film tries to deliver on.

I guess I understand the point this film was trying to make, that too much connectivity to social media and search engines is bad. The idea that being constantly plugged into Twitter, Facebook, and Google isn’t healthy for society, despite some inherent benefits. However, I think ideas such as this need to be explored in better written and more coherent films than The Circle.

The Verdict: D

-Zachary Flint

Sully Review

Sully is another blockbuster drama directed and produced by Clint Eastwood. It soars as high as I`d expect an Eastwood film too and contains a pleasant array of great acting and directing.

The film stars Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger, the American airline captain who was forced to make an emergency water landing in the Hudson River. Everyone aboard Flight 1549 survived the landing, many claiming it was due to the flight and safety skills of Captain Sullenberger. The film details the events surrounding the aftermath of the landing, including the guilt Captain Sully felt for possibly endangering the lives of the passengers for no reason.

Sully is a well-made film by a more than accomplished director. I could tell from watching that a lot of care and dedication was put into the film by Eastwood, the cast, and the crew. Tom Hanks as Sullenberger was a perfect choice in actor. Every movie I`ve seen Tom Hanks in, whether the film is good or bad, he always seems to put in an above average performance. Sully is no exception here, as Hanks successfully managed to submerge me into the psyche of Sully. He allows the audience to share in the emotions he is feeling and expresses himself in such a way that people can understand.

Hank`s character is supported nicely by Aaron Eckhart, who plays the copilot of Flight 1549, Jeff Skiles. The two work off of each other to great success and even share in the comedic relief of the film.

I also enjoyed the nonlinear way Sully was shot, as it could`ve easily been shot as one straight story. The events leading up to the landing in the Hudson River, landing in the Hudson, and then the aftermath. Instead, the audience is treated to a more interesting and complex telling of the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549. This includes many flashbacks to the landing Sullenberger has, and with each one the audience gets a more in depth perspective on the event.

The filmmakers seemed to understand how to balance the emotional tone of Sully just right. There were plenty of intense sequences for audiences to enjoy, but also plenty of slow expository scenes for people to catch their breath.

There were a few scenes in Sully where the CGI use was very obvious and didn’t look to good, but I`m really nitpicking here. I just didn’t find anything that was particularly bad about Sully. It falls slave to some typical Hollywood drama tropes, and even fictionalizes major factors in the aftermath of the landing, but it still stands as a great film nonetheless.  Sully is an all-around solid movie with great performances from Hanks and Eckhart, who are what hold this drama up.

If you’re not a fan of Clint Eastwood`s style of directing, then this probably won`t be a film for you. For anyone interested in seeing a Hollywood drama about an important event in recent American History, I recommend that they check it out.

Zachary Flint