The Post starring the ever-talented Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg’s favourite Tom Hanks delves into the story of the Vietnam War and freedom of the press. It’s the early days of whistleblowing when governments would intervene and newspapers were the lifeblood of news and information It’s not a new story, it’s not a story that hasn’t already been told, but Spielberg tells the story the only way he knows how. He makes it simple, entertaining classic and one that will be shown in classrooms for years to come. The Post is by no means a cinematic feat, it uses all the traditional conventions of film making to tell a story of corrupt governments. Take away Streep and Hanks and the film would flop as they are the driving forces. 1971 and the all mighty newspaper The New York times has released findings on the Pentagon’s controversial decisions surrounding the Vietnam War. The reason they were still at war is because for the most part they didn’t want to look like they were backing down.
The Government has sanctioned the New York Times and word makes its way to Editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee played by Hanks. In an attempt to cash in on the Times not being able to publish about the Pentagon papers Bradlee sets his team to find the papers. With luck, the Washington Post come into possession and so starts the decision to publish resulting in possibly killing the paper and send the staff involved to jail or not publish and continue as a small player in a big newspaper game.
The last blockbuster Steven Spielberg put out was back in 1993 with a little film called Jurassic Park. It was revolutionary and nothing like it had ever been seen nor attempted. Since then Spielberg has managed to put out at least one great film, Saving Private Ryan in 1998. But while his careers has been a strong and steady one he hasn’t stepped out of his comfort zone with the notable mentions of Memoirs of a Geisha, The Adventure of Tin Tin, Catch me if you can. His career however did start strong, Jaws, the Indiana Jones series, ET, Schindler’s List.It’s fair to say he is winding down as the last handful of movies including Lincoln from 2012, Bridge of Spies from 2015 and The BFG from 2016 haven’t measured up to his previous work. His latest, The Post is another film with similar tempo to the work he has produced in the last decade with nothing more than a story well told. Meryl Streep leads the cast as the Owner of the Washing Times, Kay Graham. She has been forced into the role and hasn’t worked for any part of her life. That is until her husband dies and she starts running the family newspaper. She has some big decisions to make about where the paper will go and who she is as a person.Streep gives a wonderful performance bringing her character to the screen. Her natural ability to move around a scene as if there were not a camera in front of her is remarkable. She captures the vulnerability of Graham and shows her transformation from small time newspaper to making the big decisions which no doubt got the paper to where it is today.
Hanks gives another outstanding performance as Editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee. He’s ruthless, honest and knows exactly what he wants. With a very understanding and encouraging wife Bradlee manages to stick to his guns and know exactly what to say and when to make sure they make these big decisions, publish the pentagon papers, which ultimately puts them on top. Hanks really jumps into this character, the hair, the smoking the way he carries himself. He fills the shoes naturally and seems to know his character like it was himself and he delivers his lines and mannerisms effortlessly.
Overall the film is what can only be described as a “standard Spielberg”. It’s not boring, it’s not poorly made and it’s far from a bad film. What it is, is nothing special. There’s no huge twists, no breathtaking cinematography and nothing that will make you stop and think, once you have left the cinema. It’s a good story line, it’s good cinema, something you can enjoy and without having to think.
Review by Jason Cook