Review: ‘The Post’ is good for the Times, but nothing you haven’t seen before

Stockton Grunewald, Staff Writer

The combination of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks hardly, if ever, disappoints. From the visceral World War II epics, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, to the harrowing espionage drama Bridge of Spies, it seems that the two have a persistent penchant for creating gripping historical thrillers.

Throw 20-time nominee and three-time winner Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep into the mix and you already know you got a promising film on your hands. The Post is exactly what you’d expect – a well-acted, exciting, and relevant glimpse into one of the nation’s most tumultuous periods.

The Post’s protagonist, Kay Graham (Streep), finds herself at the helm of the fledgling, (at that time) local newspaper, the Washington Post in the early 1970s, following the tragic death of her husband, Phil. Despite the paper’s status as a family-owned business, Mrs. Graham was never meant to inherit it, her father opting to hand the company to her husband.

To ensure the survival of her family’s legacy, Graham begins the process of taking the paper public. This lingers ominously in the background, just as Post reporters, led by bombastic editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) discover the whereabouts of a leaked, 4,000-page, top secret Pentagon study, detailing the publically unknown extent of American involvement in Vietnam over a course of thirty years and five administrations.

Bradlee and his staff, notably Ben Bagdikan (Bob Odenkirk), are adamant in their desire to publish the classified documents, whilst the worrisome and old-fashioned corporate advisors fear that such a move could result in investors’ bolting, condemning the nearly century-old paper to bankruptcy. Graham must decide whether to risk it all – or play it safe and let the Nixon White House escape scrutiny altogether.

It’s a fast-paced, strikingly interesting portrayal of a consequential moment in American history. The common tropes of journalistic films are there–you’ll be eerily reminded of critically acclaimed works such as All the President’s Men and Spotlight when the clacking of typewriters, tense boardroom confrontations, and the young, idealistic reporter all make their appearance on-screen.

Nonetheless, I found myself intrigued throughout the entire run. When push comes to shove, the ‘thing’ that cements the Post in a higher echelon of filmmaking is the performances. I’ve argued before that whereas most contemporary directors have some sort of defining aesthetic or thematic trademark that, Steven Spielberg has this unique ability to fiddle with our emotions, creating dynamic characters, and finding the right actors and actresses to breathe life into his stories.

Streep’s sympathetic portrayal of Kay Graham, a strong, family woman marred by personal tragedy and the constant victim of unceasing patronization from her male colleagues, who cares deeply for her family and it’s legacy, is indeed powerful. Hanks’ quippy Bradlee is extremely entertaining to watch. The two are flanked by a legion of talented supporting actors and actresses from Alison Brie to Bradley Whitford, all of whom share an unmatched desire to do what’s best, albeit, from different perspectives.

At a time where governments across the world, at the first sign of trouble, blast, ‘fake news!’ from the rooftops,  it’s refreshing to see a film emphasize the role of the free press in a democratic society.

I’m not entirely sure how well it will do come awards season (which is right around the corner), but I can safely assume The Post will have nothing to worry about.

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