The Post (2017) – Film Review
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk
by Roger Crow
There are a couple of films worth watching before Steven Spielberg’s 2017 movie The Post. Classic Watergate thriller All the President’s Men, and Robert McNamara’s excellent documentary The Fog of War.
Not that you need to do any homework before diving into the maestro’s grown-up drama; the movie he shot while Ready Player One was having special effects added by artists who weren’t born when The Washington Post faced one of the biggest dilemmas of its career.
We see how, in 1966, during the Vietnam War, military analyst Daniel Ellsberg documents the progress of military activities for Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara. While returning home, McNamara informs Ellsberg that he thinks the Vietnam war is hopeless, despite telling the Press he has every confidence in the war effort.
Years later, Ellsberg secretly photocopies covert reports documenting America’s conflict in Vietnam, and leaks them to reporters at The New York Times. The meat of the story centres on newspaper heiress Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, and editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee.
When Bradlee’s staff receive the top secret documents, Graham has to decide whether to publish and be damned, or face prison and the closure of her paper.
That’s it. Of course in the hands of a lesser director, this could have been yawnsome, but Spielberg was a master in his early twenties. Decades later, he can do this sort of thing with one hand tied behind his back. And while Streep is as excellent as ever as Graham, Hanks is phenomenal as Bradlee, doing that thing he does.
Whether leaning against a chair waiting for a decision, or sat with his feet on the table. Yes, he’s still good old Tom Hanks with a different hair cut, but here he seems to embody the spirit of a seasoned newspaper man. It’s a fabulous performance, but there’s still room for a little Hanks schtick to lighten the mood.
It’s also a joy to witness the old school composition of a newspaper page in the age before it was all done digitally. And on the subject of compositions, John Williams is as outstanding as ever, delivering another powerhouse score.
The timing of The Post is no coincidence. Set in an age when Nixon was in the White House, the movie’s masterstroke is to remind us that freedom of the Press is still a necessity, especially when ‘fake news’ has become the catchphrase to question everything, even when it’s the truth.
As events in Washington play out like an episode of The Man in the High Castle, (the show in which Nazis rule an alternate America), this is one of those movies worth watching a couple of times. Yes, the sub-text about a woman operating in a man’s world is as subtle as a round of applause in a library, but it still features a sucker punch moment during the final few minutes as Streep’s character leaves court.
If you’ve not seen All the President’s Men, have it on standby to watch after, and then give The Fog of War a look. Those extras will make a great movie even better.