Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys
Run Time: 116 mins
The Post depicts the true story of journalists in The Washington Post and their uncovering of the Pentagon Papers, classified documents associated with America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. These damning papers reveal the American cover-up of their progress in the Vietnam War, aware that their efforts were fruitless, yet still sent in more troops. The journalists then have to decide whether to publish or withold this sensitive information, risking prosecution by Nixon should they publish.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, this is a project he reportedly felt very passionate about and fast-tracked it into production, feeling that the story needed to be told now, especially in the current American climate. Spielberg managed to shoot the film very swiftly (basically, he needed to get it done in time for the Oscars…), whilst the same time managing post-production on the upcoming visual effects heavy, Ready Player One. At the same time, Spielberg has assembled a talented cast for this film comprising of Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks and of course, reunites with composer John Williams and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
Unfortunately, Spielberg’s rush to get the film has got the better of him as The Post is painfully mediocre. The film tries to make itself more important than it is and whilst the subject material is very compelling in itself, the way in which the film has been constructed is never gripping. Other than a strong scene near the beginning with acquisition of the documents, the first half of the film is very clunky and strangely, almost devoid of any tension. Whilst The Post does manage to find its footing a little more in the second half, the film is never as fascinating as it should be and feels very contrived.
The film isn’t all a shambles. In conjunction with a merely adequate second half, Spielberg clearly seems to love the act of newspaper printing and the film offers an insightful view into the world of journalism. There are numerous sequences of newspapers being printed and distributed and journalists working their socks off to get work done. There are some good performances here too, most notably Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys and Jesse Plemons. All four actors play in supporting roles and all manage to inhibit their characters very convincingly.
Of the two main performances, it’s genuinely surprising to see Meryl Streep getting Awards attention for her performance. Streep is unconvincing in the role of Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper who inherited the paper after the suicide of her husband. Streep’s performance lacks emotion. Her portrayal of her character never seemed so desperate to publish as the real figure was and she never felt particularly haunted or overwhelmed by her circumstance. Tom Hanks gives the better performance as the executive editor, but this is a role Hanks could play in his sleep.
The Post is ultimately a big disappointment, not just in Spielberg’s catalogue but principally, as a film. In a genre that boasts great films such as Zodiac and Spotlight, The Post pales in comparison and reaches nowhere near the giddy heights of both of those films. Spielberg’s lofty ambitions for Awards success seem to have got the better of him and had he taken more care to refine the finished product and the script, The Post would have been a much better film. Instead, the film we get is never gripping, awkwardly paced and too full of itself. The portrayal of The Washington Post felt like a pompous, pretentious dinner party audience, who believe in their own self-importance and I never really empathised with any of the characters. There can be no doubt of Steven Spielberg’s stature in the film industry, but even the great can fall.