Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Post

The Post is unquestionably lesser Spielberg and is more comparable to 1994's The Paper than Spotlight or All the President's Men in examining a newspaper room chasing down a story. While there's nothing wrong with that (lesser Spielberg is still Spielberg), and cast and crew still deliver an entertaining and informative film, it never reaches the the heights to which it aspires.

Based on real events, the film focuses on The Washington Post and their decision to follow the lead of The New York Times and publish the results of a leaked government study that would come to be known as the Pentagon Papers and predicted the U.S. failure in Vietnam years before troops were recalled.

Director Steven Spielberg assembles an impressive all-star cast headlined by a terrific performance by Meryl Streep as the paper's owner Katherine Graham who is faced with tough choices between balancing corporate concerns and her editor Ben Bradlee's (Tom Hanks) desire to print despite the U.S. Government's legal efforts to stop the leaked documents from making it to the front page.

Because it takes so long for the documents to fall into the hands of Bradlee's team, and so much of the film is focused on Graham's indecisiveness and position outside of the newspaper offices, it takes awhile for The Post to get around to the First Amendment issues which are really the heart of the story. As a result, the screenplay by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer doesn't pick up steam until nearly halfway through the film. Since Streep is the best thing on camera, I can understand Spielberg wanting to keep her on-screen as long as possible but doing so doesn't do any favors for the film's message or the final product.

Streep is terrific. However, while serviceable, no other performance really stands out. Hanks could sleepwalk through the one-note role of Bradley, and while it's great to see the likes of Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, and David Cross all on-screen together, the script doesn't offer them much to do. Other than Streep, the only one who stands out at all is Bob Odenkirk in a couple of scenes as the reporter who is able to track down the leaked documents for The Washington Post.

For those unaware of historical events, The Post can be a good primer. It also delves into more of the behind-the-scenes corporate politics of the newspaper business than I expected. Older viewers should also get a kick out of the small moments where old-school newspaper printing is highlighted. Spielberg's film may lack the energy or passion of something like Spotlight, but it is a solid film that covers the events and key players fairly well.

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