Despite its 1970s setting, The Post is more relevant today than ever before. In an era of fake news and post-truth politics, Spielberg’s latest reaffirms the importance of honest media and government accountability.
When an American government employee leaks the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret study revealing government deceptions about the Vietnam War, Kay Graham, (Meryl Streep) editor of the Washington Post, must decide whether to risk breaking federal law and publishing the papers, or sit on them and allow the cover up to continue.
The film’s pacing is perfect, it’s a slow burn but never drags, even if most of the on-screen action is shot in the office of a local newspaper. The film also somehow avoids becoming what the trailer hinted it could be; boring. Although someone with no interest in political history may find less to love, the plot is worth investing 2 hours of viewing time, if only for the great acting of the two leads. Streep is, of course, fantastic in her role of a recently bereaved widow trying to navigate the position of her family paper in a world very much controlled by rich white men. Tom Hanks equally impresses as the Washington Post’s executive editor, who is hell bent on destroying Nixon’s legacy; his monologue describing his conflict in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination is a standout moment, but in keeping with the film’s serious and sometimes sombre tone.
Spielberg can master any genre and it seems that recently, with films like Lincoln and Bridge of Spies, he’s been perfecting the political drama. However, The Post is not his strongest film and it probably won’t win the Best Picture Oscar for which it was nominated, nor does it deserve to. It is in no way weak and in years past could have had a good shot at taking home the award. Certainly, it’s as solid as 2016’s winner, Spotlight. But with some of the fantastic movies nominated this year, The Post doesn’t feel special enough to win. The story is excellent and enticing no doubt, the acting superb and the dialogue sharp. So what is wrong with this movie?
The final half hour. Sure, there’s some important decision making and a climactic court battle, except that none of it feels very climactic. It’s not the fact that we already know what will happen that’s the problem, it’s that we don’t care. Freedom of the press is important, but this message is told and contested time and again before the resolution. By the time the founding fathers get brought into the mix this point has well and truly been laboured.
The Post is a fascinating film that has been executed to Spielberg’s expected high standard. Artistically, it is very good, but as entertainment it falls short of being amazing.