Nominated for Best Motion Picture and Best Lead Actress at the 90th Academy Awards, The Post is the latest Steven Spielberg joint, starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. The story focuses on the attempt of the Washington Post’s publisher Katharine Graham (Streep) and its executive editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) to publish classified documents from the Pentagon regarding the United States’ government involvement in the Vietnam war.
Going into such a film, you expect nothing but greatness, both for the talent behind and in front of the camera: Spielberg is a legendary filmmaker, and he teams up once again with his masterful cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, editor Michael Kahn, and composer John Williams; the cast has two heavy-hitters that never disappoint performance-wise, as well as Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Bradley Withford, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie, and many other excellent actors. Everyone brings their A-game, and, technically speaking, the film is great and impossible to criticize: there are plenty of long shots that feature excellent shot composition and lighting (even if there is some aggressive use of lens flare), the music gives more strength to emotionally-powerful scenes, the sets and costumes are authentic and feel lived in, and all the actors do great with the material (props to a subdued Meryl Streep).
With all of that said, the story itself is surprisingly disappointing and underwhelming. Its tries to be a political thriller in the same vein as the infinitely superior All the President’s Men, as well as a film about investigative journalism like the Oscar-winning Spotlight, yet it is never as riveting or impactful as either of these films. Spielberg tries to make you feel the stakes as incredibly high, yet there is never a moment where you find yourself wondering whether this journal is going to be released to the public, also because the New York Times had already published some of the articles. The figure of Nixon is mythicized, and his threatening presence is barely felt, especially with the choice of showing his silhouette inside the White House with actual recordings of his phone calls being played over.
The movie itself is not really boring, mostly thanks to the cinematography (which makes each scene visually appealing) and the great acting. Its first act starts with a little war sequence and an espionage-esque scene that deceive the audience into making everything seem more important and epic (similarly to Spielberg’s Lincoln), the second act is all about the journalism aspect (which, unlike Spotlight, is static in its action, with only Odenkirk’s character actually doing something), and the third act is when it all fell apart for me. It is painfully obvious that the film is creating links between the Nixon administration and Trump’s, yet it does not feel as relevant as it thinks it is. There is also the entire plotline about Meryl Streep’s character that shows how the first-ever publisher of a major newspaper becomes a strong-willed woman who makes tough decisions: the performance by Streep is great in how she is at first shy and over-powered by the men, only to take a strong position near the end. However, it becomes almost insultingly pandering to females, with Hank’s wife (played by Sarah Paulson) who explains why Graham was taking a lot of risk and that we should admire her bravery, as well as dozens of young female hippies looking at Streep as if she was the Virgin Mary, with a gaze that says “Wow, you sure inspire me”. The end itself is shockingly amateurish, tying into the Watergate scandal in a sequel-bait scene that feels entirely out of place. The movie itself should have finished with the shot of Hanks and Streep walking into the sunset, with thousands of newspapers being printed.
Overall, The Post is technically great, but the story and its themes are mediocre at best, and predictable and heavy-handed at worst. Definitely one of those films that elderly people and those who have strong political opinions are going to enjoy. For me, it was a passive viewing experience.
Visual Effects: 8.5
Violence & Gore: 6
Sex & Nudity: 0
Drugs & Profanity: 3
Intensity & Horror: 3