As implausible as it seems, this is a “just good” Spielberg/Streep/Hanks film. Though extremely timely, The Post is by no means the level of quality one would expect from that trio. Watch this one, but wait for discount tickets/streaming.
The Good: Strong attention to themes tie all the pieces together, plus Streep and Hanks are never bad.
Spielberg. Streep. Hanks.
That’s the trifecta of zenith Hollywood talent. Put them together? It could be an adaptation of Pac-Man – the movie would still get a nomination.
So, naturally, they are talented here, yet again. Spielberg continues his line of easily consumable political period pieces about less-public yet timely historical events. They aren’t his best work, but by no means are they anything less than good.
Streep has a complex role, and she succeeds in oscillating between vulnerability and timidity, and swelling confidence. While she does not have the screen time to have her story really dug into, Streep makes the most of it.
Hanks gets to dive a bit meaner than he typically gets to, playing the rough edged newspaper editor archetype. Like Streep, we really only get the surface of Hanks’ character, but what is presented is so different and fresh, one can’t help but enjoy it.
Strangely, given the star power of the cast, they aren’t the real highlights of the film. That credit goes to the eerily timely story and it’s tightly orchestrated themes. The necessity of a free press, the power and fear of the truth, and the important role that often silenced women play in changing history; it is clear by the story is being told when it is.
The Bad: Aside from a Disney-like ending, there is nothing truly bad, but it certainly does not meet (unfair) expectations.
The story is powerful, thought provoking, and necessary.
But the plot is not that exciting.
The New York Times has some papers. How do we get the papers? We have the papers. Do we release the papers? We released the papers. The Washington Post is cool now.
That, in an incredibly reductive nutshell, is the plot. And no matter how you dress it up, it just isn’t that exciting. While it is a fascinating and important moment in modern American history, it’s not a watershed moment. It does not make the history books in public education; the journalists names will not be remembered by most.
The film even seems to acknowledge this, ending by showing the moment that will be remembered, that did solidify a place in the collective conscious: the Watergate Scandal.
The film best known for depicting that event, All the President’s Men, manages to not only be fantastic, but to do so primarily through its plot developments. They are beats that are filled with drama, that come with the tension and weight of the downfall of an administration.
This is where The Post stumbles. The plot was never going to be enough to suffice. Given the cast, it would be safe to presume then, that it becomes a character piece. A deep exploration of Streep’s role. What was the struggle of this real life person, as a woman who, despite being incredibly wealthy and well connected, is not taken seriously as the head of her family newspaper? And beyond her story as a woman, how do her character flaws conflict and interact with the issue at hand: does she OK the release of the Vietnam papers, and possibly doom her paper?
Those are the questions that The Post attempted to answer, and largely failed. It barely scratched the surface of neither Streep’s or Hanks’ characters, nor Bob Odenkirk’s as the primary journalist. The plot superseded all.
The Ugly: Marketed as a movie about a powerful woman in a pivotal moment, it likes to ignore its lead.
First off, to say this movie was marketed at all is laughable. Considering it was a triple-headline talent team-up, it was vastly under-advertised. It picked up at the beginning of the awards season, with talk around Streep’s performance and its relevance among the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Now this feels solidified, with her Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Yet, this feels largely unearned. Not on Streep’s part; while not her best performance, this is certainly a good one. But the campaign, real or imagined, to portray this film as about its leading woman is a falsehood. Streep’s screen time feels similar to Hanks’. Their roles are put forward as equal; partners in this enterprise. If anything, they are co-leads.
That would not immediately rule this label as false it were not for the aforementioned lack of character exploration. This cannot be about the woman Streep portrays, because it is so clearly about the plot she takes part in.
The point here is not to skewer The Post ; it is still very interesting, and Streep’s character is a welcome one. The blame here is more so on studio marketing. The tidal wave embodying “enough is enough” that has washed over Hollywood is going to be capitalized on, in the most literal sense of the word.
But this should be done with substance and truth, much like the journalism The Post portrays.
“Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light. The Post marks the first time Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have collaborated on a project. In addition to directing, Spielberg produces along with Amy Pascal and Kristie Macosko Krieger. The script was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, and the film features an acclaimed ensemble cast including Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bradley Whitford and Zach Woods.” – Rotten Tomatoes