The Post

The Post
The Post
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson and Alison Brie
Available on Download from May 14th, and on Blu-ray™ and DVD from May 21st, 2018
Watch on Amazon or iTunes

by Richard Hamer

Much like his 2012 effort Lincoln, Spielberg’s latest concerns itself with a war, and a question: For Abraham Lincoln, it was the American Civil War, and the cost of emancipating the slaves. For the owner and editor of The Washington Post Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), it is the Vietnam War, and the cost of exposing a government cover-up that spans decades.

When rival paper The New York Times begins to publish excerpts from a set of stolen, highly classified documents known as The Pentagon Papers, they are promptly placed under a court injunction. With the Vietnam War still raging, the Nixon administration argues their publication dangerous; a threat to ‘national security’. Graham and Bradlee have their own copy, but if they publish what will happen to their careers, or the careers of their employees? Will it put soldiers’ lives at risk? And if they don’t publish, then what of freedom of the press, and the right to hold governments accountable for their actions?

The Post concerns itself with the question of journalism, rather than the process. Comparisons to the likes of Spotlight, or All the President’s Men seem logical, but are misguided: Where those films dealt with the investigation, and the search for the truth, in The Post the truth is already revealed, the investigation concluded before the movie even starts. This creates a very specific kind of newspaper movie; one small in scope and plot, defined by a few key performances in a story driven all but exclusively by dialogue.

This isn’t a bad thing: The Post succeeds marvelously at what it sets out to do, but doing it results in a slow-going first half, and a general claustrophobia of scope that may simply not appeal to some. But for most, the experience will be an enjoyable one. Streep and Hanks are as good as you’d expect: Streep especially captures an insecurity with leadership that is central to The Post’s drama; torn constantly between what is safe and what is right, when one may cause the collapse of a ‘family paper’; one she inherited from her late husband, and one part of her feels she has no business running at all.

But whatever the answers, it’s clear why the questions are being asked: The Post is a story calibrated to the current political climate, drawing clear parallels between Nixon and Trump, The Pentagon Papers and the modern era of Fake News. One can imagine that if it had been released only a few years earlier, The Post wouldn’t be nearly as successful: As it is, the movie’s power lies in its relevance, its message too important, too well-posed to be ignored.

With The Post, Spielberg has made a ‘small’ movie that feels large. Striking production design recreates the vast machinery of the press; the setting and packing of steel type, the conveyers casting countless broadsheets towards the sky. At times, The Post feels like a love-letter to the power of the press; to the old, faded glamour of it, and to what it might mean if we ever let it fade completely. While it may not be Spielberg’s most ambitious movie, it is certainly among his most relevant: Expertly crafted, urgent, and worthy of your attention.



 

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