You know awards season is approaching when a film like The Post arrives on your doorstep. This film is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and a bevy of high profile actors including Sarah Paulson, Bruce Greenwood and many more.
The plot of The Post revolves around the leaking of sensitive information during the 1960’s which documented more than 20 years of clandestine U.S. activities and frank admissions that the war in Vietnam had been going poorly. These documents make their way to the New York Times and from there the Washington Post and this causes major waves in the political circles of America. This is but one of many story threads that Spielberg and his team try to squeeze into this 116-minute film. There is the subplot that follows Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) who is desperately trying to keep the legacy of the Washington Post (her father’s newspaper) standing tall as she is placed in a position she didn’t think she’d be put in. There is then the subplot with Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) a hardened reporter who gets the story no matter what but is frustrated with the sheepish nature of Graham who ties his hands when he tries to get ahead of The New York Times who are the number one newspaper time and time again. This situation is further exacerbated when Bradlee sees an opportunity to beat The New York Times and he’s being held back by Graham for seemingly selfish reasons. As the plot of the film moves forward these basic elements are further complicated by character relationships, twists etc. until the message of The Post is (in this critics opinion) diluted.
Now what does work for The Post is the acting, Spielberg has brought together an incredible cast with Streep and Hanks leading them. They pull every ounce of emotion from the screenplay to make the audience believe that the stakes of this film are as high they can possibly be. Hanks and Streep in particular Streep are firing on all cylinders elevating the screenplay with their performances. Unfortunately there are even issues here, the majority of the heavy lifting is between Hanks and Streep meaning there is little else for the rest of the cast to do. For example, a gem like Sarah Paulson is completely underutilised as her character is given nothing to do except be a wall for Hanks to talk to when he needs to give an impassioned speech that just so happens to also be an exposition dump for the audience.
Sadly another damning problem is the uncomfortable predictability – when you see Kay Graham at the start of the film you will immediately be able to see where her journey will take her through the film and where her character will end up. There are also no shades of grey, if you’re part of the government you’re a bad guy and if you’re part of the press you’re self-sacrificing and pretty much a saint. There’s even a scene where a woman who is working for the government but secretly likes the press explains this to Graham and she then goes off to speak with her boss who we see being mean to her for no reason. This scene plays out surprisingly amateurish for such a seasoned director like Spielberg.
It’s not all doom and gloom as the cinematography of The Post is quite compelling giving a real sense of the time and when you couple that with the acting on hand you still get a fascinating peek into the state of media and how it was changing to keep with the ever trying times.
There’s nothing wrong with The Post it’s just something that is remarkable in its unremarkable nature especially with such talented names on the marque.