Starring: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Matthew Rhys, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, Bradley Whitford
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Even though The Post is not a gigantic behemoth of a Hollywood blockbuster, the fact Steven Spielberg managed to take Liz Hannah’s celebrated script from production to the big screen largely between filming and editing of Ready Player One, is quite remarkable. The Post has a streamlined clarity and deftness of touch which belies the fact it was all put together across the better part of a year, and once again shows that Spielberg can flit between crowd-pleasing escapism and searing biography of the American journey with abandon.
Many have suggested that The Post operates as a prequel to All the President’s Men, the seminal 1970’s Alan J. Pakula picture which dramatised the Watergate scandal which saw the collapse of the Nixon Presidency, and that claim is hard to refute; The Post concerns the direct lead up to the events which triggered Nixon’s illegal burglary of the Watergate hotel, namely the censure of leaked government reports which detail the copious levels of misinformation given by several White House administrations regarding the state of the war in Vietnam. Less a conspiracy picture, The Post chiefly concerns a pressing modern concern: freedom of the press.
Built into the depiction of these historical events is the journey of Katharine Graham, widowed publisher of The Washington Post newspaper, who must venture from the embattled inheritor of a company about to go public with its stocks due to ailing fortunes to a powerful leader of a vanguard taking on the Nixon administration itself. Meryl Streep gives one of the best performances as Graham we’ve seen in some time; she characterises a woman with built-in steel who also has a deep river of insecurity about surviving in very much a man’s world, and steering a company that belonged to her husband and before him her father in the right direction.
It’s almost surprising that Streep and Tom Hanks have never shared the screen before, given they sit almost certainly at the head of distinguished Hollywood acting royalty – Hanks is the true blue American bastion of family values while Streep is the grand dame of theatrical performance, often regal in her posture and delivery, and it is no surprise that Spielberg teases the best out of both actors when bouncing off one another. Hanks, as charismatic, daring Post editor Ben Bradlee, is filled with honest and bullish bravado, steering a ship filled with a range of excellent character actors surrounding the duo who fill out the players in what becomes a tense game.
Only a director as skilled as Spielberg could bring to the fore such a wellspring of nail biting narrative, after an admittedly steady start as he assembles all of the characters spiralling around a story which encompasses former government officials, journalists, publishers and lawyers. The Post then takes place in a condensed time frame as Bradlee & Graham are pushed and pulled by half a dozen influences into whether they go public with damning evidence which could seriously damage the reputation of the US government, or allow their constitutional freedom to be suppressed. It becomes an almost philosophical debate which resonates very clearly, and pointedly, in our era of ‘fake news’ and an anti-press White House.
We won’t spoil how it rolls out—though a quick Wiki search will give you the answers—but suffice to say The Post doesn’t need mystery to be compelling and meaningful. Even on a second watch, it remains among some of Spielberg’s best work, pairing two titans of American cinema for a tale which hasn’t quite been told, and very much has a place in our current political and global landscape. A real gem.
- Layout – Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee and the Washington Post.
- Editorial – the Cast and Characters of The Post
- The Style Section – re-creating an era
- Arts and Entertainment – the Music of The Post.
The Post is now available on DVD/BluRay & digital download from eOne.