Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
As one of cinema’s most legendary directors, Steven Spielberg has become known for his ability to tell any story in any genre. He has tackled war epics with Saving Private Ryan to sci-fi adventures in E.T and Jurassic Park. In what can be considered a pseudo-prequel to All the President’s Men, The Post acts as Spielberg’s return to historical dramas after directing projects such as Schindler’s List and Lincoln. A story the details the fight for freedom of press, and is arguably more relevant today than it was in 1971, The Post is not only one of the best movies of 2017, it is one of the most important and it reminds viewers about the vitality of journalism through its expertly crafted story, brought to life by a superb cast and an incredible director.
The Post follows the incredible story of Kathrine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper – The Washington Post. Graham, with the help from Editor Ben Bradlee and his team, they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a gigantic cover-up of government secrets that spans over thirty years and four separate presidents. Together, they work towards overcoming their differences as they risk their careers and freedom to try and bring long-buried secrets to light.
Shot and edited in a mere seven months, Steven Spielberg’s latest film project is exceptional as it blends together several genres into one cohesive narrative. It is able to weave a notable history lesson into a fast-paced political thriller and the end result is a film that truly speaks to our modern time. Centered on The Washington Post getting its hands on The Pentagon Papers, classified documents that seemed to prove that multiple U.S. administrations had misled the American public with regard to our motivations to stay involved in the Vietnam War, Spielberg delivers an entertaining look into the pressures of the press attempting to serve the governed, not the government. It humanizes the men and women at the forefront who dedicate themselves to unearthing the difficult truths of the world, even if the people may not want to listen. Now, journalism is more important than ever and the defense of a free and unbiased press is a message Spielberg knew the audience of this generation needed to hear.
With a screenplay by Liz Hannah and a polish by Josh Singer, The Post nicely balances its public and private aspects as it flips between Kathrine Graham’s struggle with holding such a high position of power and Ben Bradlee’s struggle on convincing his team to release the classified documents. It is a dramatic tale that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, even during its quieter moments. While there’s plenty of exposition to delve out, the script superbly limits it to only the essentials and quickly moves on, reverting back to focusing on its multi-faceted characters and the fear of government retaliation. It then pulls from classic gritty thrillers from the 70’s and 80’s as Spielberg also shows the length to which the paper actually receives the paper along with giving viewers an inside look into the Nixon Presidency.
While it is uncommon to see Meryl Streep in a role that lacks self-confidence, she continues to show why she is the best actress working today as her performance as Kathrine Graham is arguably her best in several years. This is woman who only came into power because her husband passed away and she evolves from American socialite to journalism hero amongst her peers. Streep has tackled real life characters before but The Post is some of her most exciting work yet, capturing Graham’s initial hesitation to conflict and then later going towards it perfectly. Tom Hanks reunites with Spielberg to play Ben Bradlee and gives a moving performance as a man simply trying to do the right thing. He is a worthy foil to Streep’s Graham by way of there being no doubt about him wanting to share the government secrets. Hanks is able to bring Bradlee down to earth, softening the character to earn empathy from the audience.
As with any film, The Post does still have its flaws. For one, the film moves at a relatively quick pace, never staying in one place for so long. It jumps from Bradlee and his team searching through the sea of government files to Graham conflicting with her moral compass with a snap of the finger and, in some cases, it can take away from the emotion Spielberg is trying to evoke in said scene. In addition, some actors are lost in the shuffle. Given its ensemble cast, it was expected that some actors would be showcased more than others, and this unfortunately lies with Bruce Greenwood’s Robert McNamara and Jesse Pelmons’ Howard Simons. Both actors are given just enough to deliver compelling performances but each could have benefited with having their characters fleshed out better.
John Williams’ score for The Post marks his 29th collaboration with Steven Spielberg and he does not disappoint. Williams’ composition succeeds in not only creating thrilling tension, but also valiant awe when called upon. The horn-heavy soundtrack elevates every scene it plays against and Williams is able to manipulate audience emotions to feel everything from inspired to sympathetic to thrilling excitement.
The Post is an enthralling film with a powerful message. Telling a complex story that boasts phenomenal performances, a creative and exciting musical score and a beautifully-written screenplay, Spielberg’s latest showing recruits the best-of-the-best to deliver an inspiring tale of freedom of press. The Post is a tale of overcoming the odds and it does so in an exciting fashion. Its period setting nicely enhances bitingly timely themes, and will be remembered as not only one of the best films of 2017, but the most significant and will leave you informed, entertained, and thrilled.
Nick’s Rating – 8.7/10
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