Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep lead an all-star cast in a film about the Pentagon Papers.

It took about nine months for Steven Spielberg to make The Post, from the moment he read the first draft of the script in the early months of 2017 to the first advance screenings in November. That’s an absurdly short period of time for any movie to be made, let alone one of this size.

That sense of urgency serves the film well. The Post is a humdinger of a historical journalism tale that manages to be about many things — women and power, competition, friendship, and most of all the First Amendment — while also being a rollicking, enjoyable time at the movies. (Following the first New York screening, star Tom Hanks called it “rock-’em-sock-’em two hours of grab-yer-ass entertainment,” and he wasn’t wrong.)

The pace of the film, and the sheer number of thematic and plot-related plates it keeps spinning, helps smooth out The Post‘s roughest edge: It’s so strenuously sincere about making sure you know it’s relevant to today that it verges, at times, on overbearing.

But it always seems to pull back at the right time, so don’t let the movie’s earnestness put you off. If Hollywood is going to make “now more than ever” movies, this is the way to do it: with a marvelous cast, pitch-perfect design, and a story that feels like the work of latter-day Frank Capra. The Post is an act of goodwill and faith in American institutions, but it’s also aware of how fragile those institutions are, how dependent on their participants they are for their survival, and how much is at stake when press freedom is threatened.

The Post is a limpid and exciting retelling of the story of the Pentagon Papers

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