The Post: A Powerful Spielbergian Drama
Review by Aaron Haughton
The Post is by no means the most exciting film Spielberg has ever made, and it's far from his best, but it is a well crafted and well acted drama that explores important moral and ethical questions. It also takes us back to a time where the news was far from fake and telephones were connected by wires, when the press unanimously looked after the public interests, not some corporation. It's a film with an important story to tell, and it feels extra sharp and timely considering America's political climes. Loaded with some big speeches, a surprising cast and strong performances abound, it's a fairly engrossing and clever precursor to All The President's Men and another solid Spielberg entry.
The Post is about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post's Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers — and their very freedom — to help bring long-buried truths to light.
The film marks the first time that Hanks, Streep and Spielberg have ever collaborated together, which alone may earn it a few nominations. Without the three of them involved, the film would no doubt be more dry and rigid. Spielberg definitely does everything in his power to give the dialogue-heavy drama a lively energy, visually, while Streep and Hanks fill the film's lungs with life through their expectedly strong performances. The dialogue is sharp and slick, and is a strong first effort from Liz Hannah, with Spotlight's Josh Singer fleshing out the creases and folds, making is crisp and even.
The most delightful thing about the film — at least for me, anyways — was the colorful and acclaimed ensemble cast that is sprinkled throughout the film. Just as the film would start to drag or sag a little, a new familiar face would pop on the screen to the brighten the film a bit. The long list of names includes Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bradley Whitford and Zach Woods, but far and away the greatest and surprising casting was David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. There is nothing Mr. Show about their characters or performances here, but it was very nice to see the two of them on screen together again. Bob Odenkirk in particular delivers another fantastic dramatic performance with light flourishes of comedy to fill in the cracks, a la Saul.
Spielberg's direction is very fluid and tight, relying on a lot of long takes for optimum performances and camera movement to give the film a sense of tension and energy. His blocking and staging here is particularly fantastic, with the exception of one moment — a scene where a government employee is contemplating running off with some government documents, and lingers, unrealistically and suspiciously, at the threshold of the glass doors in front of two guards. He makes sure to fully occupy and utilize the sets in which he films and makes a story about a bunch of stiffs in a newsroom as a engaging as possible.
The story is framed from the perspective of The Washington Post and their dilemma to publish, or not to publish, classified government information that could send them to jail and cause financial ruin for their paper. Those are the stakes, and they're undoubtedly high; however, the more interesting angle to the story may be from the government itself, their decision to keep important information out of the public, and continue to cover is up for years. Regardless, it's still an important story that deserves to be told.
If you're a piqued by newsroom or slow Spielbergian drama, or are interested in modern American history, this film is for you. I'd say it's worth a watch for Odenkirk and Cross, personally — oh yeah, and Hanks and Streep, too. This isn't one that I'd personally rush out and see, but if you're interested on keeping tabs on the Oscars, you'll definitely need to make a trip to the theater.
Rating: 3.5 exposed government secrets outta 5.
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