Going into The Post, I didn’t have high hopes from its announcement to its release as 20th Century Fox have marketed it as a “Oscar bait” film (it sure paid off, gaining Meryl Streep a Best Actor in a Supporting Role and a Best Picture nomination), which usually wards me off from seeing a film (see: Moonlight, Argo, The Artist, The King’s Speech and so forth). However, with The Post, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Tracy Letts, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, Zach Woods, Michael Stuhlbarg among many others, that’s a film that I simply cannot turn down no matter how much I may try.
Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper — The Washington Post. With help from editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents. Together, they must overcome their differences as they risk their careers — and very freedom — to help bring long-buried truths to light.
While it may not be 1971 anymore, much of the message of The Post is all the more relevant today in which our President is classifying what is and isn’t “fake news”, what reports can be allowed into White House press briefings and in an age where publishers, blogs and virtually any one online can generate a hit story just based off of a headline, that message is all the more important. The Post very much gets into all of this and at a deeper level than any other investigative journalism I’ve seen – ever. There is a hard deadline to make sure the American public knows about this story before the source of the story buries it, following up on leads all the while asking what a journalist’s duty is or isn’t. This is a film that’s about the journalism profession through and through. There are stakes in this film and everyone in that building knows exactly what happens if they screw up.
The Post isn’t just content on commenting on today’s media – it’s a commentary on everything that’s happening in our current climate, the most prevalent thread being Meryl Streep’s performance as Katherine Graham. Looking at Streep in the film, it was like I was watching Hillary Clinton on screen and I’m sure that’s no accident. At every turn, Graham is dismissed as “a woman in a man’s job” and “doesn’t know the business” with everyone telling her what she can and cannot do. While the topic may be decades old, Spielberg is clearly trying to tell us that we can do better.
While the film is excellent at portraying what is wrong with our country, it isn’t that great at getting a great performance out of Streep. It’s odd, really, because I figured she would’ve been the person I liked most, but she just feels as though she is sleepwalking through the role here. There are often times where she’ll stare out into space as if she’s forgotten her line or that she just thought it would be better for the character to be silent in that moment and it’s very awkward.
Outside of Streep, as you saw when you started reading this review, this is an excellent cast. You’ve got Bob Odenkirk and David Cross as two reporters chasing all the leads they can, Tom Hanks as the hard-boiled editor, Jesse Plemons and Zach Woods playing off each other as lawyers and that’s not even half of the cast! Seriously, this cast is phenomenal and is worth the Blu-Ray/digital rental/Redbox/ticket just to see these performances alone.
Steven Spielberg directs this somewhat decently, making sure that the stakes are felt throughout every second of the film, but what really brought the film down for me was Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography. There are points where characters are just sitting by a window or an overhead lamp and it’s blinding at times. Hopefully, 20th Century Fox will work on that for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray release in a few months so I can enjoy The Post without sunglasses on at all times.
The Post is a film that everyone needs to see, but the film never struts its importance or the cast. From one moviegoer to another, this is finally an “Oscar bait” film I can wholeheartedly recommend.