THE POST

What would we do without the free press? Well, we’d certainly be a lot less annoyed as a nation. More importantly, though, we wouldn’t be informed and know what’s going on in the world. We rely on the work of relentless journalists and researchers in order to know the truth, while many others try to keep it hidden. People that we’re supposed to trust. Well, not everybody we’re supposed to look up to has our best intentions in mind. All they want us to do is to ignore, forget, and move on; pretending whatever they’re doing isn’t happening and doesn’t affect us. We’re lucky to have people that do the exact opposite of ignoring, forgetting, and moving on. 

The Post takes place in 1971, during the height of the Vietnam War. Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) is the owner and publisher of The Washington Post, recently taking over the company after the death of her father and husband. Knowing revenue for her paper is dropping and from increasingly intense competition with The New York Times, her and editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) are desperate for scoops. Fortunately for them, military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) has quite possibly the biggest scoop of all: the United States has actually secretly been involved in Vietnam for nearly the past thirty years. Even worse, the government has known for a while that the war is unwinnable, but in fear of shattering their ego, kept the war going. While Bradlee and his team comb through thousands of documents to publish the information, the Nixon administration declares war against the free press, trying to prevent the information known as The Penatgon Papers from being published. 

Is there any other director quite like Spielberg? He’s one of a kind, I’d say. Often imitated, but never matched, he’s influenced countless creative minds today. While his detractors are right that he normally makes easily accessible, cheesy entertainment, nobody does it like him. The Post shows that the 71-year-old has no signs of slowing down. For a film that consists of people just talking in offices and houses, he still knows how to keep the events visually exciting. There’s hardly a static shot, the camera often dollying and zooming around, adding to the film’s sense of urgency. It’s a shame it looked kind of ugly, lit and color graded with a drab, gray aesthetic. It definitely portrays a gloomy newsroom with accuracy, but when we’re inside a character’s home, some more color would have been nice. 

Since it takes place over a short period of time, it’s briskly paced. It may have moved a bit too fast at times, though, as some scenes are quite short and seemed abruptly cut off without much room to breathe, especially when things are wrapping up near the end. If there’s one area Spielberg can’t seem to help himself, it’s in the cheese and schmaltz department, which gets ratcheted up during the last 20 minutes. The last few minutes are especially terrible that I actually laughed when it happened. It was so stupid and obvious that almost ruined the impact of the film for me. As he obviously showed in Lincoln and now here, Spielberg needs to learn again how to reel it in ends his movies correctly. 

It’s not just the energetic and stylish direction that keeps The Post on its feet, but excellent performances all across the board featuring a huge cast of great actors. Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Jesse Plemons, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Allison Brie, and Bruce Greenwood. Spielberg still has a great eye for casting and makes the most of his stars, even in the ones in bit parts. I found Tom Hanks especially great, playing a more surly and commanding role than he normally plays. He shares most of screentime with Streep, where they verbally spar back and forth about the ethics and legality about what they do. Katherine Graham spent much of her career cozying up to politicians, using them as an outlet to get access to stories. She’s not just afraid of the legal ramifications of publishing The Pentagon Papers, but also how it will affect her important connections and relationships. This is a big point of contention with Hanks’ more honest and bold Ben Bradlee. This interesting conflict is unfortunately resolved a bit too quickly, and I didn’t quite buy Graham’s sudden change of heart. Streep is fantastic, though. There’s no doubt about that, especially during a terrific monologue near the end. 

While Spielberg is unable to hold himself back from putting his own personal stamps all over The Post, it’s partially those personal stamps that make it so exciting in the first place. It’s easy to make a film where a bunch of people walk and talk boring, but with someone as assured as Spielberg at the helm, you get an exciting true story with excellent performances to bring it to life. Not just that, but it’s an important film that shows how much our lives can change just from the actions from a few people, particularly the ones who work in the free press. These people paved the way for others to freely report on what they felt, and their impact is still felt today… Probably more so than ever before. 

7.5/10

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