The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg, offers a compelling, well told story; filled with a brilliant cast of actors who all expertly perform their roles. I don’t mean this in a negative way: but if you’ve ever seen a Spielberg film (particularly his more recent films) then you know what you’re going to get with this one. It’s a consistent, well shot film that shows how efficient at making an enthralling piece of cinema, Spielberg is. So let’s jump into the meat of the review and break down all that, The Post has to offer.
Based upon the true story; The Post explores a time in American history, where through the leaking of classified documents, a cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents was revealed to the American people, and at the forefront of revealing this information was The New York Times and The Washington Post. The latter being led by Kay Graham – portrayed by Meryl Streep – the countries first female newspaper publisher, and no-nonsense editor, Ben Bradlee – portrayed by Tom Hanks. Their decisions could result in a legal battle that could bring both companies to their knees, under the boot of President Richard Nixon.
Despite knowing how the story played out (having read about it at some point) I was still completely engaged by this film at all times. It’s one of those stories that captures your attention and you want to see through to its conclusion (also aided by the fact that there were a host of interesting individuals caught up in it all, but I’ll get to them in a moment). The two writers of the film, Liz Hannah and Josh Singer constructed an airtight script where all the fat was trimmed and only what felt essential or relevant made it in. This never felt like a film that lagged (despite its slow pace). It always felt as if something within a scene was being accomplished and playing its part in the larger story. This made for an experience that I never felt myself wavering from; I always had my focus solely placed on the film (something for me, I find isn’t always the case with historical dramas like this).
But the film does move at a leisurely pace. Both the opening of the film and the latter half of the third act are fast and full of scenes with great momentum. But for the most part, The Post is a film that takes its time to get into the details of its story and its characters. I actually found this to be a benefit for the film, as there is a lot of information to take in and remember, so I appreciated having the time to digest it all. Although, I don’t know if a general audience will feel the same. This is a film where important people are talking to one another and sometimes the long list of names or the fast terminology can be a little difficult to keep up with. It’s certainly not a film that will entertain everyone, but it will certainly inform them.
As I said earlier though, the film isn’t without its more hurried, panic filled scenes. I found these moments to be all the more effective because of the more subdued pace earlier on. Having existed in a reasonably calm state throughout watching the film, it was all the more noticeable and exciting when things ramped up to a pace that had a thrilling flow to it. I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Spielberg knows exactly how to manipulate and play with the emotions of the audience (in a good way). It was also in these moments that long tine collaborator, John Williams’ score really came to life.
Within the engrossing story is a large, healthy selection of actors and characters who all shone in their own particular way. Leading the film are two titans of Hollywood: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. I was intrigued by Hanks’ character (Ben Bradlee) in the film, as it wasn’t the usual character we get from him. Ben Bradlee comes across as a very morose, difficult man, and despite his good intentions, did seem quite antagonistic at times. We don’t usually see someone like this from Hanks; usually he’s a more charming, humorous individual who you’d happily see yourself wanting to befriend – that wasn’t the case for his character in The Post. I really liked that, as I fully saw the character and at no point saw Tom Hanks, which is sometimes an issue for me, because of how famous and recognisable he is.
Meryl Streep delivers a solid but unremarkable performance (once again, her Oscar nomination for Best Actress is, as usual, baffling), but she still very much becomes her character and delivers a performance that compliments the film and her co-stars well. Kay Graham really interested me because she wasn’t what I was expecting from the owner of a company. In the beginning there was this subtle, yet ever-present nervous flutter to her. Her lack of confidence, or how she almost seemed to get lost in the scene, as the all-male boardroom towered over her, pulled me in and had me interested to see how the character would develop. It all made for a very unassuming person, who of course grew into a satisfyingly strong, decisive leader. It was a transformation that was handled really well, and like Streep’s performance, really complimented the larger story and film.
So while there are those two titans of cinema; The Post also boasts a fantastic supporting cast of varied actors – some who I have to give a little love too right now, as they all added to my enjoyment of the film. The always faultless, Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water) who has a minor role but still makes his presence known. Jesse Plemons (Hostiles) who appears in seemingly everything and always brings something different; like he does in this. Carrie Coon (The Leftovers seasons 1-3) who isn’t in nearly enough, considering how infinitely talented she is, and further shows that in this film. Bruce Greenwood (Gerald’s Game) who is an actor you can always depend on and never let’s you down. I could happily go on praising the long list of wonderfully talented actors who appear in, The Post. I adore them for different reasons, and I genuinely had smiles of happiness come across my face when I saw each of them. It’s a stellar cast Spielberg put together – that’s for sure.
And speaking of Steven Spielberg – perhaps one of the most well-known directors… ever. He’s a director who I feel I have a love-hate relationship with. I love so many of his films, and similar for many people, were integral to my childhood. But as I’ve grown up and my critical eye has evolved and improved; I do now see some of the constant clichés in his work, or the inability to not have everything wrap-up in a comfortably neat little bow. However, the aspect to Spielberg’s directing I’ve never had a problem with and only appreciated as I’ve matured as a film watcher: is his total control of the camera – something that was of course on show in The Post.
Spielberg is able to communicate so much with the simplest of movements of the camera. What many other directors might communicate with expository dialogue, he simply says by panning the camera over the necessary information; no dialogue, no overlays of text, just filmmaking at its purest. It was this aspect to this film that I found myself giving a hefty amount of attention too. To see how subtly, yet effective he does it (sometimes you don’t even realise it’s happening) is a joy to watch. If you haven’t noticed it before, I recommend putting on one of his films and just focus on everything the camera does, or in some cases doesn’t do, and see just how effectively Spielberg uses it as a further way of telling the story, beyond the common ways relied upon today.
So I’ll admit: I wasn’t that eager to see The Post; having not been that enamoured with Spielberg’s most recent films (Bridge of Spies and The BFG) and I have to admit I have no interest in his upcoming film, Ready Player One (the book is awful); but I actually thoroughly enjoyed The Post. It offered the basic qualities for a compelling, enjoyable film, and I think it’s a solid addition to Spielberg’s filmography – no where near the best, but still good.
I’m going to recommend The Post. It’s not anything ground-breaking or never before seen, but it’s entertaining, interesting and reliably enthralling. Plus, it has just been nominated for ‘Best Picture’ at the 2018 Academy Awards, so you should go see if it’s worthy of such a nomination. I hope you enjoy the film as much as I did, if not more.
I would love to know your thoughts on both the film and my review of it, so please leave any opinions, feedback, etc. in the comments section down below. May I also ask for you to follow my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings? But I’ll bring my ramblings to a close now by saying thank you for taking the time to read my work and I hope you have a fantastic day!