“The Post,” dir. Steven Spielberg
A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher, Kate Graham of The Washington Post, and its hard-driving editor, Ben Bradlee, to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government in publishing the Pentagon Papers.
When it comes to the best of the best in terms of directors in the business, it’s hard to get any better than Steven Spielberg. The two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker has been responsible for some of the greatest films ever made and has worked in every genre imaginable. That being said, while the films he’s made this decade have consistently gotten acclaim in the moment, none of them have been able to leave a lasting impact like so many of his best works with the possible exception of “Lincoln.” In some cases like with “Bridge of Spies” and last year’s “The BFG,” they were never good to begin with. On that note, “The Post” ranks somewhere in the middle.
Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks lead the picture as the publisher and editor of The Washington Post respectively. Hanks, in his fifth collaboration with Spielberg, injects a good amount of personality into Bradlee. His natural charisma keeps the audience engaged and he plays a substantial part in ensuring that the urgency of the conflict is felt. Streep is typically excellent in a role that is far more subdued than initially anticipated. There’s never a moment where her performance rings false.
Spielberg has brought together a hell of an ensemble to work alongside Hanks and Streep for this project with the likes of Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Michael Stuhlbarg and many more. While some of these actors work wonders with their thinly developed characters, Odenkirk being the exception as he’s given the most compelling character in the entire movie, quite a few of the supporting players are given very little to do. Particularly disappointing is a completely wasted role for Stuhlbarg who just gave two outstanding performances in this years “Call Me By Your Name” and “The Shape of Water.” It might be considered asking for too much of an ensemble piece like this to spread the wealth but considering screenwriter Josh Singer was able to write plenty of meaningful, substantial roles for the entire ensemble in the vastly superior “Spotlight,” this feels like a glaring omission.
The story that “The Post” presents has remarkable resonance to the days of “fake news” within our current political climate. Spielberg fast-tracked production for the film as soon as he was attached to direct just earlier this year, citing that this story needed to be told today and that it couldn’t wait two or three years. As a result, that timely story immediately becomes hindered by rushed storytelling. The direction and structure never feel properly thought out, robbing this fascinating narrative of its emotional punch.
It’s becoming a trend that more filmmakers are starting to take risks in the ways stories are told and what kinds of stories are told. Audiences, critics, and awards voters are beginning to take notice of these risks and embrace them with open arms. This year in particular has offered up so many special films from directors and writers bringing a unique voice to cinema. It’s unfortunate that a director like Steven Spielberg, someone who time and time again told stories in imaginative ways, hasn’t kept that innovative spark alive. At the same time, “The Post” does a serviceable job at functioning as a conversation starter for people to talk about the bigger issues we currently face today. If journalism is, as former Washington Post Publisher Philip L. Graham says, “the first rough draft of history,” maybe the seemingly first rough draft state of Spielberg’s film is all he needed to ensure the conversation began. Will “The Post” stand the test of time? That will remain to be seen.
Are you excited to see “The Post?” Have you been a fan of Steven Spielberg’s films as of late? Leave a comment down below with your thoughts.
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