While this film has a commendable and important story to tell, one quite timely with what is going on in American politics today, unfortunately this film is weighed down by issues of its own making: if ever a film could be described as Oscarbait, this is it. You can see it in the starry cast, the stirring John Williams score, and all Spielberg’s old worst habits. Slow, ponderous cranking-in of the camera during solemn and oh-so-important monologues (hey! Oscar! its me!), manipulative score… (I don’t like using the word ‘manipulative’, all films are manipulative, its what they do, but some are worse than others).
When Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) leaves the courtroom in triumph, the camera pans down in a long crane shot following her down the steps, and suddenly the crowd she walks through are all women, and all are giving her silent, admiring and supportive stares, as if suddenly the film has become a hymn to feminine self-empowerment. The achievement is real, the sentiment is fine, but the execution is as clumsy as anything Spielberg put us through in his early years. Its a really ham-fisted and ill-judged moment that yanked me straight out of the movie, an example of Spielberg at his worst.
Perhaps the films lofty ambitions got the better of Spielberg and his team. Certainly the story should be enough, its a good story and yes, relevant to our times, but goodness its self-importance is overwhelming. There’s a sense throughout that this isn’t ‘just’ a movie, that there’s something else going on, and its got everything to do with Awards season I fear. Pulled away from that with the distance of time, it leaves the film feeling awkward. I’m quite surprised to see Spielberg in this (dare I say cynical?) mode.
So, not a terrible movie, but yes an awkward waste of all the talent involved that leaves it feeling oddly amateur.