The Post - 2018
Director(s): Steven Spielberg
Writer(s): Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
Cinematography by: Janusz Kaminski
Editor(s): Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Mathew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg and Bruce Greenwood.
Synopsis: Leaked classified documents (Pentagon Papers) regarding a massive cover-up around the Vietnam War that spanned multiple presidents forces the country’s first female newspaper publisher to stand against the US government.
This is a Steven Spielberg movie starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. I mean yeah, it’s good, did you expect anything else from that trio? But what I really enjoyed about this movie and the reason why I think a) you should see it and b) it’s a necessary movie in our times, is the core message it delivers on: the necessity of free press. We live in an age in where the press is constantly under attack for the facts they try to report and is labeled as “fake news”. In 1970, Nixon took these news outlets to court trying to discredit them and their reputation to strongarm them from ever letting the people of America know what was truly happening in Vietnam. This movie highlights the struggle of these journalists in trying to uphold their first amendment rights and their sense of duty to their readers.
Quick note: I promised myself that I would always be honest with you, my faithful reader. I dozed off for a few minutes during the screening and my wife woke me up. I lost tops 5 minutes of the runtime. That’s not a reflection on the movie. I had woken up at 6:00am, worked till 4:30pm, cooked, went and saw an advance screening of another movie, and then caught the 10 pm showing of this one. Oh, and I had at least 8 cold and flu pills in my system. Don’t do any of what I did and you should be wide awake during this movie.
Steven Spielberg knew that this movie would be boring, visually, if he didn’t come up with ways to block the scenes in visually compelling ways. There are very few ways to shoot a conversation which is about 80% of this movie, before it becomes stale and boring. Spielberg’s camera movement and placement, along with Janusz Kaminski lighting and his use of the mise en scène made my eyes stay glued to every inch of frame presented to me. Some scenes felt like I was watching an action movie by how the camera swung around the actors and the push zoom can in to the actor’s face. It felt like a deliberate choice to make the ambiance as energetic and compelling as possibility so that the conversation, while great, wouldn’t be the only thing holding the audience up.
There are a few scenes in which Spielberg and writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer presented the times without it being preachy or too on the nose. Like the synopsis says above, this is the first female publisher in the States. This comes after decades and decades of women not being invited to the table outside of them bringing coffee to their bosses. While they flat out say it once or twice during the movie, the way they visually showcased it was far more impactful. Meryl Streep is shown walking alone in a hallway when she is met by a group of women holding note pads waiting outside a closed room. They part way so Meryl can come through, all of them staring at her as if she is a white whale, and when the doors open there is a sea of men waiting for her inside the board room. Even if they don’t say it, that was a watershed moment in that company and in the country for working women.
I was worried going into this movie. The trailer sells Meryl Streep’s character, Kay Graham, as a hard-nose boss that won’t be unfazed by the situation and her position in power. I was pleasantly surprised by how fragile and full of self-doubt her character was at the beginning of the movie. This allowed for me as an audience member to connect with her on a human level and enjoy her arc even more as people watching her take over the newspaper insisted on calling it “her father’s” instead of hers. Streep gave a lot of nuance to her mannerisms and the way she talked so that by the end of the movie it felt like a new character in how confident she was with her choices. When you have Streep as your lead you need a great dancing partner and Tom Hanks can dance as good as any other actor working in Hollywood today. I loved his accent and how he challenges Streep to be the publisher the American people needed at that time.
Quick note: watching them interact with each other was like two tennis pros just lobbing tennis balls back and forth. It was effortless and something any upcoming actor should study.
The Post is a straight forward telling of how the free press kept our government in check during the Vietnam war. Showcasing how our democracy needs its first amendment to be respected and upheld, even when the story being run is hurting the image of our government. Streep was wonderful in her portrayal of a flawed leader finding her footing in a male-dominated industry. Spielberg was great behind the camera and John Williams score elevates the tone set by the script, but watching Hanks and Streep just have a conversation is why I love movies.
The Post is currently playing in theaters. Watch it.
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