“The Post” is directed by Steven Spielberg and it’s about the true story of the Washington Post’s attempts at publishing the Pentagon Papers, classified documents that contained information about the U.S.’s role in the Vietnam war. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks star as the two key members of the Post as they try to make the public aware of this information in a battle for the freedom of the press.
I’m a big Spielberg fan and I look forward to almost anything he has coming out. (He has Indiana Jones 5 and “Ready Player One” coming out, hence the almost) He’s also proven that he can masterfully tell a good story surrounding historical events, such as the case with films like “Bridge of Spies”, “Munich”, and “Lincoln”. More often then not, I’m excited to see Spielberg tackle a history-based story and seeing as how this movie in particular was made to parallel the problems in modern society, I had high hopes for this movie, which is why it pains me to say that this movie is just…fine.
Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are both good in their respective roles, though I can’t help but feel that these are performances that they could just as easily give in their sleep. They aren’t particularly outstanding in anyway, but they do what they need to do, Streep playing the determined newspaper journalist who helped in breaking the gender barrier in journalism, and Hanks doing a good job as an equally determined editor-in-chief.
Honestly, I was more into the performances of the supporting cast than the two leads. You have the likes of Bob Odenkirk and Sarah Paulson giving genuinely great performances and I feel that they should be the focus of the awards buzz, not Streep. Not to discredit Streep’s acting ability, but there were far more standout moments from the supporting cast than the main leads.
The movie really struggles to get going in its first half. A lot of the focus is on obtaining the Pentagon Papers in order to publish them, but that’s the problem: they don’t have the actual papers for the first half and a lot of what we see is the characters sitting in a room and exchanging dialogue like: “Do you have the papers?” “No.” “Well go get them.” That makes up a good majority of the film and it makes for a slow burn, not one that’s slow in a methodical way, but slow in a way where the pacing is legitimately uneven and unfocused.
However, the movie really picks up in the second half when the Papers are gathered and we’re given a look at the Washington Post doing their best to call out the Nixon Administration and fight back. It’s in this second half when we see how well Spielberg can direct, what with how he stages scenes with the blocking, placement of actors, etc. He also does a great job in making intense, engaging scenes that are driven purely by dialogue. You understand the seriousness of the situation and it’s in the film’s final act that we see that Spielberg is still a master at his craft.
As far as the movie’s message goes, that was a mixed bag. There are moments in this movie where a social aspect is addressed, whether it be about sexism, corruption in government, or constitutional rights and it’s hammered home in a really powerful, well done way that makes the movie feel relevant. However, there are also some moments when the writing can be VERY on the nose, whether it be forced dialogue about the dangers of Nixon’s administration or overly-dramatic sequences of Meryl Streep practically having a light shine down on her while an angelic choir plays. In other words, this movie isn’t 100% subtle in its message.
Overall, “The Post” is good Spielberg, but it’s not great Spielberg. The acting is all very good, it’s well directed, and it has some relevant social themes that are touched upon very well, but it’s also very slow in its first half and some of the writing comes off as very forced and cheesy. It also doesn’t help that this movie clearly has a “Give me an Oscar” vibe to it. Oscar bait films can still be enjoyable, but there’s no point in not calling a spade a spade.