The Post (2017): Streep and Hanks Spread the News and Define History in This Spielberg Flick
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the third installment of this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month, where I will be reviewing four of the many movies Spielberg has created over the span of his career. Spielberg has created films with action like “Raiders of the Ark” and “Minority Report,” but today, we are doing a reverse Elvis Presley. A little less action, a little more conversation. That is because we are tackling one of Spielberg’s most recent outings, “The Post.” Nominated for two Oscars, this film was met with acclaim. Let us hope that the Movie Reviewing Moron will have something to say to add to this film’s endless stream of positivity. Here we go.
“The Post” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, The BFG) and stars Meryl Streep (The Giver, The Iron Lady), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away), Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on Sunset Strip, Game Change), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Nebraska), Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, Wiener-Dog), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, The Handmaid’s Tale), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Young Justice), and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters, The Americans). This film is about the first woman newspaper publisher and her editor as they uncover a history changing revelation that had been hidden for four presidencies.
I started Scene Before in 2016. Therefore, I have reviewed a lot of movies since then. Despite seeing previews, I have never gotten around to reviewing, or even watching, “The Post.” The film had a lot of potential from one of the most acclaimed actors and one of the most acclaimed actresses coming together to lead the picture. In addition, Steven Spielberg is behind the camera. Despite the potential, I skipped this film. I was excited to finally give it a watch at home since I had a used copy of the 4K Blu-ray on standby. Physical media forever.
Safe to say, the film is quite good. Streep and Hanks, unsurprisingly, make for a marvelous on-screen pair as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee respectively. Cast members who are not quite at the level of top billing like Jesse Plemons and Will Denton also have moments to shine as well. Steven Spielberg delivers another win for his career on top of his many others. The screenplay, which was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is undoubtedly compelling. I should not be surprised that the screenplay is as solid as it is, as Singer has previous experience in writing excellent journalism-centered storytelling. In addition to “The Post,” Singer also wrote “Spotlight,” for which he won two Academy Awards, specifically Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. Having seen that film, I am not terribly shocked. I am also not terribly shocked that not long after those wins, Singer would once again utilize his creativity to effectively craft “The Post.”
Despite being a serious movie, it flies by. Honestly, despite being a couple hours, it felt like an hour and a half at times. It is that good. Pacing-wise, this is one of the better movies I have seen recently. Kind of like “The Post,” “Spotlight” came out as another one of these awards season darlings. I think both movies are equal in terms of entertainment value, a term I use lightly given both of these movies’ subject matters. Although as for which one I like better, I think it depends on where you look. “The Post” feels a bit more theatrical than “Spotlight.” Therefore, when it comes to technicality, that is one aspect where this movie dazzles. The costumes are rugged and transportive enough to make me feel like I am traveling back in time. A lot of the locations look extravagant and beautiful. To add to the antique touch, this movie was entirely shot on film, whereas “Spotlight” used the digital Arri Alexa XT.
Steven Spielberg is no stranger to starting off his movies with a compelling hook.
No pun intended.
In “Jaws,” you have the intro with the infamous music that continues to build whenever the shark is present. After that, you have that scene on the beach where the shark bites a girl in the water. Total intrigue. In “Jurassic Park,” the opening scene between the humans and the dinosaur shows off the menacing vibe these creatures can deliver. In “The Post,” we start off with soldiers fighting in Vietnam. I was not alive during the Vietnam War. In regards to history, I was still a baby when 9-11 happened. Although based on what I have learned in school, I know enough about the Vietnam War to recognize how significant and unfortunate it is from a U.S. perspective. I thought starting off here provided for an effective reminder of not only what the Vietnam War put a militaristic group through, but also what it did to the people of the country they were tasked with defending and honoring.
Now, this is not an action movie, it is not a war movie. War and politics are two defining traits within the story, but if you are looking for a war film in 2017, “Dunkirk” is probably your friend. That said, this one glimpse of action during the Vietnam War set the stage for what was to come. It took something so big to make something much smaller in scale appear more attractive.
This film dazzles from a technical perspective. Again, the costumes and locations look stunning. Speaking of stunning, the intricacies that go into how this movie was made are mind-boggling. The camerawork in this film occasionally felt so immersive that it highlighted some of the best direction of the year. The movie has a few long takes that felt perfectly planned and put me right in the room. There was a scene where I felt as if I was walking around the office of The Washington Post. It is like if Google Maps Street View theatrically transformed itself. Janusz Kaminski, a longtime collaborator with Steven Spielberg, worked on the cinematography for this film. While it was not nominated for an Academy Award, I think it is some of the finest of 2017 alongside Roger Deakins’s work in “Blade Runner 2049” and Hoyte van Hoytema’s craft in “Dunkirk.”
I often try to avoid politics on Scene Before. However, this is one of those cases where it must come into play. I say so because one of the notable aspects of “The Post” was its time of release. This film came out around the tail end of 2017, when Donald Trump was President of the United States. “The Post” almost comes as a tell as to whether history could repeat itself, because this movie reveals a lack of trust or full connection between the news and the government. At the same time, Donald Trump would consistently sideline or mock various news outlets and pick his favorites. This is an action he would continue to do even by the time he left office. If I saw this movie years ago, I would probably leave the theater thinking it is a relevant title and connect it to the importance of the 1st Amendment. This film has an ending that profiles such a thing beautifully.
Speaking of U.S. Presidents, Richard Nixon makes an appearance in this movie. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where we see a suited Nixon. We never see his face, it is almost like looking at The Banker from “Deal or No Deal” at times. Since this movie is based on true events, one touch that I thought was nice was the use of Nixon’s actual voice . The addition of Nixon’s real voice illustrated a specific scene’s point and perhaps delivered an emotional attachment that I would not have felt otherwise. Curzon Dobell is barely in the movie as Richard Nixon, but for the short time he is in it, he makes the performance a standout.
The story feels kind of Hollywoodized and some of the supporting characters do not stand out as much as others, but the film overall is worth a watch. The only other critique I can come up with is that this is one of John Williams’s lesser scores. The man is a genius, and his music during the movie works. But when it comes to his library, this is a score I am not going to remember as much as others.
In the end, “The Post” is a stellar look at how the United States changed journalism, and in turn, how journalism changed the United States. There is no surprise that a film like this could work. Coincidental or not, the timing of this story could not have been better. You have Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg working together. On paper, this sounds like an absolute win. In execution, it is an absolute win. In other news, water is wet. While “Spotlight” may be a slightly better journalism-centered story, “The Post” is another example of how well journalism can be used as the centerpiece of a cinematic experience when given the right tools and context. If Josh Singer wants to do another movie about journalism I am there on day one. I think he is one of the best screenwriters working today. His work on the film with then newbie Liz Hannah, who would go on to co-write the funny political comedy, “Long Shot,” is superb. I am going to give “The Post” an 8/10.
Speaking of history, one thing I love about Steven Spielberg is his ability to successfully manage a couple feature-length directorial efforts in such short time. In 1993 he released both “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” within months of each other. Before making “The Post,” Spielberg directed one of my favorite films from him, “Ready Player One,” and he ended up shooting “The Post” while “Ready Player One” was in post-production. “Ready Player One” ended up coming out after “The Post,” but it goes to show that Spielberg is committed to his craft. When one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes he opens the other door back up after a while. There is a reason why I am doing a Steven Spielberg Month, and this is one of them. He is one of the best minds in the film industry today.
“The Post” is now available to rent or buy on VOD and is also available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray.
Thanks for reading this review! My next and final installment to Steven Spielberg Month is coming next Friday, October 28th, and it will be a review for Spielberg’s latest movie to have a wide release, “West Side Story!” I have seen the film twice and will watch it once more for review purposes. I am excited to finally talk about this movie given how I did see it in December 2021, but due to time constraints, I never got around to reviewing it. If you want to see my other reviews through Steven Spielberg Month, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Post?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Spotlight?” Tell me your thoughts on that movie! Do you like “The Post” or “Spotlight” more? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!