The Post (2017)

It’s ironic but perhaps unsurprising, given history’s persistent tendency to repeat itself, that such an unapologetically old-fashioned period piece could be so piercingly relevant to the times we’re living in now. Steven Spielberg’s ode to journalists fighting to expose years of political wrong-doing in the face of a government willing to do anything to suppress it may be resolutely retro in both style – no CGI or special effects to distract here – and setting, but no amount of seventies suits or old-timey typewriters can obscure the immediate, overwhelming pertinence of its two principal themes: freedom of the press as the protection of freedom, and women stepping up and taking control after years of being told that they can’t.

That’s the preaching part of my review over for the night, though. Here’s the rest: The Post is an engagingly earnest, lovingly-made movie with something to say, and I loved it. The cast is magnificent – Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are the irresistible partnership at the centre of it, and they’re wonderful, but even the smallest roles have some of the best actors (Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood, the list is endless) working today in them, and the performances, paired with clean, clear-headed direction turn what could have been a stodgy, preachy two-hour lecture into an incredibly entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable and ultimately uplifting fist-bump of a film. Sometimes, the old stories really are the good ones.

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Lethal Weapon s2 ep 5

A generously-built man, Howard Trotter, dies at a racetrack. Although we know that he was murdered, there isn’t much evidence of that – it looks like natural causes – until Howard’s friend persuades Murtaugh and Riggs to investigate further. The good news is that Howard’s friend is ethically-challenged attorney Leo Getz (Thomas Lennon), making a triumphant return to the show, this time bringing a giant mancrush on Murtaugh along for the ride. Every scene featuring Leo is, of course, an absolute delight.

But the darker side of Lethal Weapon is never too far away. In an apparently comedic plot development Riggs’s trailer is towed away, effectively leaving him homeless. This leads, though, to Riggs recalling further unhappy childhood events involving his father, and in turn to one scene when he, quite unexpectedly, uses a baseball bat to brutalise a suspect. Although Riggs now seems to have got over his dead wife, it looks as if season 2 is going to involve him confronting the memory of his father. It’s a great episode.

The Blacklist s5 ep 6

We’re taken back to 1989, specifically the day the Berlin Wall came down, and a hitman taking out a target. Jumping to the present day, Red tells Liz that a man called Mitchell Dunning has been marked out for assassination by this week’s Blacklisters, The Travel Agency, a loose alliance of killers-for-hire who have been dormant for 12 years. Dunning is killed before Ressler and Liz can protect him, and an investigation reveals a connection between the two victims. And something more; specifically, some clever monkeying around with timelines. The clue was there in the first scene; I spotted it, but didn’t appreciate its significance.

Meantime, Red and Tom come face-to-face to discuss the Suitcase O’Bones. I always enjoy their scenes together, as James Spader and Ryan Eggold are arguably the show’s best actors. Red warns Tom off. Tom ignores him. And Lena, Pete’s girlfriend, who was helping Tom last week, is threatened by Bucky out of Nashville, who tells her to stay away from Tom. But she doesn’t, which presumably means she’s dead next week. Liz and Tom get married. I thought they… already were? And Agent Cooper, with Red’s help, runs around trying to sort out the drug-related problems of Isaiah, the son of some friends of his. It has no connection whatever to the rest of the episode, or indeed the show, and is presumably there to give Cooper something to do, and to allow the show to make the point that, as Cooper tells Isaiah, “It’s the gospel truth that if you’re black in this country, and you say the wrong word, you can be killed.” A point always worth making, in fairness, but an uninspiring episode otherwise.

Public Service Announcement 8 of 2018: Collateral, Trauma

It’s John Simm vs John Simm tonight (Monday), as the BBC and ITV have somehow managed to ignore every other day of the year and schedule both of their big new dramas featuring the same man, on the same night at the same time. Um…well done?

At 9pm on BBC2, and first up for our purposes, is Collateral, a project so steeped in pedigree it should have its own category at Crufts. Written by Oscar nominee/ BAFTA winner and generally venerated playwright Sir David Hare, and starring Oscar nominee/ BAFTA winner and generally venerated actress Carey Mulligan, with a supporting cast including the aforementioned Mr Simm and the wonderful Nicola Walker, it couldn’t sound more prestigious if it tried. Mulligan plays a detective investigating the murder of a pizza delivery driver and, without wishing to wander into spoiler territory, this is a serious BBC drama in four parts, so it’s going to delve into some uncomfortable, upsetting issues. I can’t face any more weighty, worthy detective dramas at the moment though – if I need a reminder of the appalling things people can do to each other, I can just watch the news – so I’m going to give it a miss.

Also at 9pm, then, ITV1 has Trauma, an “event series” showing across three consecutive nights – as if anybody has time for that – written by Mike “Doctor Foster” Bartlett, and starring Simm as a grieving father who blames (rightly or wrongly, I’m guessing we’ll find out) trauma consultant Adrian Lester for the death of Simm’s teenage son while under Lester’s care. Whether it’ll be any good or not, and whether it’ll be a sad, sobering look at class, grief and the magnitude of the challenges facing the NHS, or a scenery-chewing soap opera, I have no idea and I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to find out, but let us know if you do.

Public Service Announcement 7 of 2018: Chicago Med

A bit of comfort tv to ease us back into the working week: Chicago Med, the scrub-themed part of the emergency services/ public order-related multi-headed Hydra that is the Chicago franchise (including Fire, PD and the short-lived Justice) is back on UK screens tonight at 9pm on Universal, picking up where season 3 left off just before Christmas.

This show is exactly what you think it is – attractive people striding around, furrowed of brow and strong of feeling, spouting jargon they don’t understand at issues masquerading as patients, there to teach everybody a lesson every week. It’s no ER, and years of watching medical shows trying to be ER means nearly everything about Med – issues, diagnoses, pain and angst – is completely predictable but, on the plus side, it’s significantly less self-important than Grey’s Anatomy, even if they both suffer from a tendency to treat certain, more irritating characters as if they’re preternatural medical talents and generally tremendous people, instead of the judgemental pains-in-the-ass they actually are. (I’m looking at you, Drs Reese, Manning and Halstead, and Nurse Yaya from America’s Next Top Model.) Happily, this is largely made up for on Med by Colin Donnell’s hot, kind Dr Rhodes, and the absolutely terrific trio of Oliver Platt as psychiatrist Dr Charles, Marlyne Barrett as charge nurse Maggie Lockwood and S Epatha Merkerson as chief administrator Sharon Goodwin, although given that Chicago Med (via sister show Chicago PD and its crossovers with Law and Order: SVU, bear with me here with the tv algebra) is canonically part of the same universe as the original Law and Order, this means that either Lt Van Buren switched career or she has an identical twin out there running a hospital.

Anyway. That kind of thinking is not what you need when watching this show. In fact, any kind of thinking other than “Oh!”, “Aw!”, “That poor lady/man/kid/family!” and “Dr Rhodes is lovely” is pretty much unnecessary. It’s easy, watchable Sunday night fluff and a low-maintenance, low-stress way to take your mind off going back to work tomorrow. (Which is when I’ll be back to tell you about Monday night’s duelling new shows Collateral and Trauma, both of which promise to be way, way at the other end of the ease and prestige spectrum from Chicago Med.)

Hawaii Five-0 s8 ep 5

The Halloween episode, and there’s a lot going on. Fortunately, apart from the occasional costume (I can only echo Tani’s “What the hell…?” on seeing Jerry, dressed like an idiot) it’s action all the way. Steve is escorting our old friend Dr Alicia Brown (Claire Forlani) to court, where she’s standing trial for the murder of Madison Gray. She’s pleading self-defence… except, as she confesses to Steve, it was essentially an extra-judicial execution. Steve is perturbed by her apparent feelings of guilt: in what parallel world can’t he and his friends just run around shooting people who deserve it? And she has a daughter at home. What if you’re imprisoned, Dr Alicia? “Then”, she tells Steve, “I need to ask you to take care of her”. Huh? With Junior and that dog already under Steve’s wing, things are going to get pretty crowded chez Le Kahuna Grand.

Meantime, in the sort of utterly ridiculous Case of the Week which keeps me coming back to this show, there’s a killer on Oahu who seems to be re-enacting old Hawaiian folk tales. First to go is a pig importer whose death, as Tani informs an increasingly incredulous Danny, is an homage to a legend in which a fire goddess enters into a romantic relationship with, then splits from, a half-man half-pig demi-god. Danny can see why that might have happened: “He’s tracking hoof-mud all through the kitchen and the living room like an animal…” he sniffs. But when the killer follows up with a second death – this time the folk tale is something about trolls, I was about as interested as Danny – and then the kidnapping of a young girl, again apparently based on folklore, it’s clear that he grudgingly needs to take Tani more seriously.

But with no leads, what’s the Five-0 to do? Well, Steve has a word with the judge at Alicia’s trial, and no more than a few seconds later proceedings are halted in order that she can help find the killer. In the middle of her trial for murder. Alicia, at least, has the good grace to look baffled by this turn of events; but there’s no time for her to wonder about the state of the justice system in Hawaii, because she’s needed in the field.

And while all that’s going on, Grover has been summoned to Death Row in Florida State Prison, because Sebastian Wake, a multiple killer-for-hire who’s being executed in a matter of hours, wants to talk to him about something. Specifically, he wants to talk – in that even, ironic tone of voice which film and TV serial killers are obliged to possess – about Clay Maxwell. He, of course, is Grover’s former partner and bestie, who Grover firmly believes killed his wife, got away with it, then sent people after Grover to kill him as well. Well, now Grover’s listening. So, Wake says, if you can just get me a stay of execution I can tell you all about it…? Grover tries, but unsurprisingly the authorities aren’t having it, and Wake goes to his (unnecessarily gruesome, I’d say) death in the electric chair. But there’s a little post-death surprise for Grover anyway.

Back on Oahu, the abducted girl is found alive, but her kidnapper – who has a tragic backstory of her own – escapes, presumably to reappear later in the season. And Alicia gets offered a soft plea deal: probation with a condition she helps the Five-0. Which, together with the deal Adam Noshimuri got, suggests that Hawaii might be the best place in the whole USA to commit murder and get away with it. The final scene – suggesting that poor old Alicia and her daughter are about to be targeted yet again by yet another psycho-on-the-loose – was perhaps a bit much. Otherwise, though, this was excellent entertainment.

Spiral (Engrenages) s6 eps 11 & 12

*SPOILERS*

“There is no more Tintin. FINIS.”

The end of saison six of Spiral brings with it a whole lot of other endings, deux of which involve the long-suffering, increasingly angry Tintin. It’s ironic that, on the same day his divorce is finalised, he leaves the post that probably cost him his marriage in the first place: finding out the real reason why Laure halted last week’s op is the final straw. “How does it feel to be as bent as the cops you’re arresting?'” he yells. “And don’t bother asking yourself what you’ve become with Gilou and when you crossed the line because you did that so long ago, you’ve lost sight of where it is.”

Well, oui. I’ve been saying that for ans. But it’s a powerful scene, well-played, and it makes me wonder again why Tintin’s anger is is so wholly focussed on Laure, while Gilou essentially gets a free pass, his “I just wanted to say we were a great team and I won’t forget that” farewell message eliciting more a grin than a grimace. Is it because she’s une femme? Or because she’s getting between Tintin and his homme?

Qui sait? Either way, Tintin est parti. And his partnership with Laure isn’t the only one ending in acrimony. The Cléry cops double-cross les Camaras, only to find themselves double-crossed right back as Gilou – somehow escaping retribution for blatant criminality yet again – negotiates a deal with Drissa that gives the Berthaud Bunch more than enough to take Jolers and Calvi down.

Everyone’s very excited when Calvi spills the beans, very agitated when Jolers doesn’t – stripping him naked for the humiliation of it is an appalling thing to do, no matter how awful he is, Laure – and even more so when they realise that, with Tintin gone, nobody’s done the paperwork. “You are not immune to procedure!” yells Beckriche. Well, oui again. Especially since there’s a new magistrate on the case and he’s having none of it.

Jolers’s liberté is only temporaire, however, and he knows it, choosing to end things on his own, deeply shocking terms instead. I screamed out loud.

But Jolers and Calvi are just deux of the engrenages in a much bigger machine. The disgraced (but no less arrogant for it) doctor who treated Justine is found at last, which leads Laure and Gilou to her baby, and to the reason why poor, decent Mercier was killed in the first place: Moldovan’s trafficking operation, dealing in girls, babies and utter misery.

Moldovan is caught, Maria is saved, and thanks to a few kind words from Capt Berthaud, it’s as happy an ending for la jeune fille as Spiral can manage, albeit she’s mourning her best friend and she seems to have nobody to look in on her except CID. Given the melancholy mood of the rest of the saison finale, however, and the number of characters left in somewhat precarious positions, Maria’s doing well.

Roban, for instance, is suspended from duty on health reasons, his beloved work taken away from him. His doctor handles him brilliantly, persuading him to have the operation, to seize the opportunity and “to live.” And for a moment, Roban smiles, and I’m hopeful. But the shot of him standing on the bridge alone is ominous. Does Monsieur le Juge know how to live as just Monsieur Roban? Does he want to?

And Joséphine’s situation looks even more dire. She and I having relaxed into thinking that perhaps she’d got away with it, we’re both stunned when she’s arrested for the attempted murder of Vern Junior, the sleazebag himself having woken up and taken great joie in reporting her to the police. Ordinarily, of course, I’d be on board with that – attempted murder is not okay, mes amis – but it’s Joséphine. And he’s a scumbucket.

The arrest, the scene where she has to face him in l’hôpital, the scene where the magistrate remands her…. all of it is harrowing and worrying to watch, and I can’t imagine how she’s going to cope with the months in jail that lie ahead even before any trial. Thank Dieu for Edelman, then, who’s not Pierre, alas, but who understands her and understands how to fight for her, which is exactly what Maître Karlsson is going to need. Maybe all is not lost after all.

The last shot of the saison belongs to Laure though, and it isn’t a hopeful one. Having spent douze episodes vibrating with fear at the idea of looking after her child, and doing everything short of taking out an ad in Le Monde to say she doesn’t want to, the prospect of Romy being discharged is too much. She’s too proud to let Bremont take her – I love Bremont, by the way – but whether it’s post-natal depression or post-traumatic stress from the circumstances surrounding her birth or just utter panic, she can’t do it either. So she runs, leaving Gilou standing in the car park with a giant panda and a stupid grin, and at least one viewer wondering how they can possibly leave it like that.

Saison sept has been commissioned, so at least we’ll get to find out whether Herville and Mme Mayor get together, Laure gets help, Justine gets convicted and Roban gets a life, but new saisons of Spiral take forever and I don’t want to wait two years to find out. Impatience is a good sign, though: after Pierre’s death in saison cinq, I started saison six with very bad grace but, apart from way too much time spent on “surveillance”, it won me over with what’s been a difficult run for the characters, but a thoroughly compelling, powerful one for the viewer. Adieu to Berthaud and co for now, yes, but à bientôt, j’espère.