The Post opens with the sounds of whirring helicopter blades over a black screen, before dropping us into the middle of a jungle sortie, circa Vietnam 1966. Caught in the firefight is military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, played by Matthew Rhys. The vicious attack by unseen Viet Cong is staged by the film’s director, Steven Spielberg, with typical flair, a kind of guerrilla sequel to his Normandy landing. But this sequence is much briefer than the one in Saving Private Ryan (1998), and editors Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn cut abruptly from the middle of the battle to Ellsberg typing up his report back at camp after the slaughter.
As the opening to a film subsequently set almost entirely in newsrooms and Washington townhouses, this feels like a constitutional: a hit-out before all the shot/reverse-shots of the dialogue scenes, as well as a reminder that Spielberg’s late-career interest in civics, with Lincoln (2012) and Bridge of Spies (2015) and now this, hasn’t dulled his way with an action sequence.