Steven Spielberg is a directing legend in Hollywood. The A-list filmmaker is credited with some of the best American films of the last three decades. While he still brings the name and prestige, Spielberg’s films of the last few years haven’t inspired the love of some of his earlier work. With his much hyped political drama The Post finally hitting theaters, will the film enjoy the success of Spielberg’s best work? Or will it drop into the critically acclaimed forgetability of some of the filmmakers most recent movies.
The Post follows the editorial team at the Washington Post as they struggle to release the infamous “Pentagon Papers” in the politically turbulent 1970s. The film assembles an A-list cast, lead by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Hanks puts forward an awards caliber performance as iconic Post editor and journalist Ben Bradlee. Streep brings an equally powerful performance as Post owner Kay Graham.
Steven Spielberg hasn’t shied away from period pieces in recent years, and he somehow manages to up his game even farther with The Post. While Spielberg brings his own pedigree, the “cred” of the film is upped even more by the presence of Hanks and Streep. The movie brings all the artistic and technical prowess one would expect from such celebrated group. This is a good movie, no ifs… ands… or buts about it.
The film feels (and plays) like a fairly standard newsroom drama. In fact, this is probably one of the movie’s biggest struggles. Watching the long shots of the smoky Washington Post newsroom and hearing the clacking of typewriters, it becomes clear we’ve seen this before. In fact, The Post feels like Spielberg is taking his own spin on the cinema classic, All the President’s Men. While this might fail miserably in the hands of another filmmaker, this is Steven fricking Spielberg. As a result, this movie looks and feels like the prestigious Oscar bait picture it undoubtedly is.
Probably the biggest problem for The Post is its narrative struggles as the movie reaches its climax. Could it be an example of writers block? While the first three quarters of the film feel like an exciting, well-crafted newsroom drama, when the action moves to the courtroom, things fall a bit flat. The film finally concludes on a tacked on ending, which feels glaringly out of tone from the rest of the movie. Any potential sequel would undoubtedly be titled: The Post 2: Watergate.
Aesthetically, The Post takes much of its inspiration from the cinema of the 1970s. It tends towards dark, gritty and a bit washed out. This isn’t a rich, luscious and vivid period piece. However, it works best this way. In constructing the film like this, Spielberg transports his audience back to the 1970s. This doesn’t feel like a filmmaker’s take on the 1970s, it feels like the 1970s.
Taking a note from its 1970s setting, the film seems excited to make a point on the second wave feminist movement. After all, Meryl Streep shines playing Kay Graham, a woman struggling to lead a male dominated newspaper. Kay’s story arch is particularly interesting and fleshed out as she struggles to get her feet under her. Her confidence grows throughout the film, finally seeming at her most independent and progressive as the movie reaches its climax.
However, there are scenes throughout the film which hint towards a greater presence of the women’s movement in the cinematic world. In one particular moment, Kay shares a simple scene with a female court clerk representing the government. We see the two women connecting at a deeper level in the face of the patriarchy surrounding them. While the hint of the feminist theme is definitely present in the story, aside from the growth evident in Streep’s character, this feels like a clear opportunity for the film.
To address the political elephant in the room, viewers on different sides of the aisle will have different views of this movie. The Post brings a similar political tone to All the President’s Men. Furthermore, it is highly reminiscent of the environment of political paranoia which dominated 1970s popular culture. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the film also feels very representative of our contemporary political climate. Spielberg manages to construct a period piece which feels like it could be taking place last week. As such, The Post may likely prove divisive based on where you stand on the political spectrum. However, this is a point for audiences to decide where they sit and draw their own conclusions accordingly.
Backing up Hanks and Streep, the film brings together an amazing supporting cast. Well-respected performers like Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys and Bradley Whitford fill the screen. Everyone shines in their respective roles, and are given a chance to stand-out.
All in all, in the hands of another filmmaker, The Post might not work. The politically charged narrative is coming at an equally politically charged time. However, coming from Steven Spielberg and with award-nominated performances from Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the film finds itself elevated. Fans of political films, period pieces as well as newsroom dramas like All the President’s Men and Spotlight should most definitely check out this movie. The Post is sure to see much love during award season, as well as a spot on many Top 10 lists.
The Post opens in theaters around the country today.
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