The Post brings together arguably our best living director (Steven Spielberg), arguably our best living actor (Tom Hanks), and arguably our best living actress (Meryl Streep). With a lineup like this, the audience might expect one of the 21st century’s greatest achievements. While the film is indeed great, it falls short of being a masterpiece. Given the cast and crew’s remarkable body of work, the expectations for The Post are so high that it could probably never live up to them. What really holds the film back, however, is that it must live in the shadow of Spotlight, a modern film that not only delved into the importance of journalism first, but also better.
At this point, it might sound like I’m trashing The Post, but that’s not at all the case. Even if its not one of Spielberg’s absolute best, it is an exceptionally crafted political thriller nonetheless. The screenplay is ingeniously written, the editing creates a genuine sense of urgency, and John Williams’ score makes every second feel crucial as our characters race against the clock. The film additionally showcases what might be the most impressive acting ensemble of the year. In addition to Hanks and Streep, we also get sensational work from Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Matthew Rhys, and various other A-list character actors. Even the smallest roles leave an enormous impact.
Taking place not too long before Richard Nixon was impeached, the story revolves around a cover-up that involved four U.S. presidents. When the evidence comes into The Washington Post’s possession, editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) fights to bring the story to the American people. Whether or not the story gets published rests on the shoulders of Kay Graham (Streep), who became the newspaper’s publisher following her husband’s death. Even when Streep says nothing, we can see all the gears turning in her head as she contemplates risking everything to battle a dishonest government. All the while, Spielberg pays great attention to detail as he presents all the building blocks that go into printing a newspaper before the deadline.
It’s impossible to watch The Post without drawing parallels to our own political climate. Not only is Donald Trump the most controversial president since Nixon, but he’s also currently in the midst of an investigation. Considering that Trump writes any criticism off as “fake news,” freedom of the press is also being challenged now more than ever. The repeal of net neutrality and the ban against certain news media from White House briefing has only fanned the flames of corruption. It’s interesting that Trump is constantly arguing that his freedom of speech is at risk when he’s constantly trying to silence others. Because of this, The Post is a relevant and even important film, even if it’s not perfect.
The Post is at its best during its two first thirds as Bradlee does everything in his power to get his story published, even if it means going to prison. Without giving too much away, though, the film loses momentum in its last act. On one hand, you can’t blame the filmmakers for this, as the story is grounded in fact. However, the rushed climax still takes away from much of the suspense. As interesting as this true story is, it’s not quite as gripping as something like All the President’s Men. You could almost see this material working as an HBO movie as apposed to a theatrical release. Since the project attracted the best in the business, though, The Post ultimately earns its place on the big screen.