The Post FILM REVIEW
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie
Rated PG-13 for language and brief war violence.
Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
***1/2 out of *****
Photo: 20th Century Fox
Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) are forced to make some difficult decisions in Steven Spielberg's THE POST.
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States states the following:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Over the centuries there have been a number of landmark cases regarding the freedom of the press. Malice, libel and censorship were just some of the issues at the center of these, sometimes landmark, cases. It's a hot button issue that isn't lost on Hollywood as a number of films have been made about the First Amendment; freedom of the press, in particular. Notable films such as ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK and PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT set their sites on the First Amendment issue by dramatizing the actual events and cases depicted. Steven Spielberg's THE POST joins these aforementioned films in this political drama based upon The Washington Post and their battle with the United States government over their intention to publish sensitive documents about the Vietnam War.
Upon its release THE POST arrived in the midst of a real-life ongoing battle between a presidential administration and the press. The irony, timeliness and topicality of the subject matter certainly isn't lost but reality would seem to have stolen some of the film's thunder. The films previously mentioned all had an energy and vitality which rendered them utterly captivating. Even though they were based on actual events and their outcomes well known the films were still riveting from start to finish. THE POST is not focused upon the First Amendment issue or the fact that a woman was in charge of one of the most recognized publications in the country. Its primary focus is on how they obtained possession of the documents and what went into the decision making to publish or not. At its core it's a pretty straightforward journalistic procedural covering some volatile history in a rather matter-of-fact fashion.
The film stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Streep is Kay Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, and Hanks is Ben Bradlee, executive editor at The Washington Post. The two veteran actors are the best part of the film as they effortless portray their characters with conviction, depth and intelligence. Streep is strong throughout but really doesn't shine until late in the film when Graham is put on the spot to make a decision. Hanks is not as flashy but he has his fair share of moments during the film where you see just what makes Bradlee tick. The film features a strong ensemble cast including Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie and Michael Stuhlbarg.
The screenplay was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer; the latter won an Academy Award for his screenplay for SPOTLIGHT. SPOTLIGHT also chronicled real-life events but with the subject being investigative journalism there was an inherent level of intrigue as the journalists uncovered the story. Any intrigue or shock which this film may have been able to elicit was lost in reality because what is occurring on screen is pretty much what's happening now so there really aren't any significant surprises. Steven Spielberg reminds us that every film he directs doesn't need to be or look like a blockbuster. Aesthetically it is more akin to BRIDGE OF SPIES as opposed to a film like MUNICH. While both are very good and depict actual events, in Spielbergian terms, the former is rather light whereas the other is quite dour.
Spielberg's THE POST seems like it's the right film for the right time. It's a compelling drama about a moment in history which, to some degree, seems to be repeating itself. While the film recounts historical events it serves as a reminder to not forget the past and to learn from it as well. The filmmakers' intent was no doubt to tell an engrossing story about our country's history but ultimately, thanks to the times we live in, it now serves more as a relevant and topical commentary on the present but, thankfully, not in an overt preachy kind of way.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal