The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, is the latest film from the master, Steven Spielberg. It details the story of the Washington Post as they try to publish the Pentagon Papers that reveal how the Nixon government covered up corruption that spanned 4 US presidents surrounding the Vietnam War.
The film offers many interesting issues, such as ‘Is it right to publish?’, ‘How far should freedom of the press go?’ and ‘Should loyalty be towards friends or the public?’ The film offers a brand new perspective on the times and presents the question to the audience that any good drama should do: ‘What would I do in this situation?’
Typically, Tom Hanks is fantastic in this movie. He portrays Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington Post, whom has become totally committed to exposing the truth to the public, despite hatred coming at him from all angles, from the board of the paper all the way to President Nixon himself. He also seems to have come to see the newspaper industry as a long, never-ending war that, perhaps unintentionally, becomes an interesting parallel to the war that they are trying to expose. Perhaps this should have been explored more, rather than the exploration of the difficulty of producing a newspaper.
Also giving a good performance as always is Meryl Streep. She portrays the publisher of the Post whom has been thrust into this position of power that she neither wanted nor felt she was capable of. She must make the difficult choices that go along with being at the helm of such a paper whilst overcoming blatant misogyny, being the only female board member. Now this is a tricky issue, particularly due to recent events. This problem is extremely important and should be always in the public eye. However I think the issue is over prevalent in this movie and takes a lot of focus off the plot that the film should be following. It’s very difficult territory so time will tell if this detail will hold up. Streep herself is good but it really feels like she is baiting the Oscars. She will be nominated, hopefully along with Hanks, and ultimately they feel deserved.
Both Hanks and Streep deliver strong performances, with Hanks really delivering the passion and the anti-establishment attitudes of the real Bradlee. Yet he does sometimes fall into the cliché of the classic editor: like Perry White in Richard Donner’s Superman, he often shouts and hollers with his feet on the desk and smoking a big cigar. Other performances in this huge cast are also fantastic with some of the best performances of the careers of David Cross, Bob Odenkirk and Bruce Greenwood. Odenkirk is particularly good and I believe should be nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar. Also Cardiff’s own Matthew Rhys is wonderful with his portrayal of the untold hero.
Spielberg rushed the production of this film to fit in with the Oscar season along with the Trump administration currently echoing similar events with the press. You can see the rushed nature from Spielberg as there seems to be little beneath the surface in terms of his usual subtle stylistic devices that can be seen in all of his greats. However the movement of the camera is brilliant and the setting of shots is beautiful which is a Spielberg trait that can never be understated as more and more directors cut rather than move. His direction is brilliant compared to many directors working today but by no means his best work.
The story is the best aspect of this film, as it kept me gripped from the beginning to the end. This is mainly because this is based on a true story. The film is fast paced and it is essential that you are paying attention to every conversation or you will miss a key plot point. This is not a film that you can just sit back and switch your brain off. The film never cheats at all and never delivers unnecessary exposition. However, the film often feels over-padded with scenes trying to create artificial drama and intensity that is where the film is let down compared to classics like All The President’s Men or more recently Spotlight. Also the ending (avoiding spoilers) to me felt very melodramatic which is fine in other films but comes off as weird in this film. And the final moments are just plain silly: that might have been an interesting concept but the execution was all wrong.
So ultimately, this is a very average film that is brought up to be a very good film by the talent involved and so for that reason I’m giving it an