Let’s just cut right to the chase: Steven Spielberg has crafted yet another masterpiece with The Post, and it fits right in line as the third part of what I will label a trilogy of his recent films about the right people coming along at just the right time to do the right thing. With the precision of a surgeon, Spielberg zeroes in on those significant moments that become greater than any one of us but are possible because of one of us. There was Lincoln, then Bridge of Spies and now The Post, all of which have protagonists who must rise above circumstances and adversity to reach a simple moment of courage. And in the case of The Post, I can think of no movie that is more important for a time when the assault on freedom of the press and journalistic integrity is being drilled into people’s heads with the attack phrase “fake news.”
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As I say in my video review above, this is the most important movie of 2017 on so many levels but mainly as a recounting of an event 46 years ago that not only altered the dark cloud hanging over a newspaper but also a precursor to another earth-shattering moment just three years later known as Watergate. Spielberg and screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer got this film in shape in record time — soup to nuts in just about a year — and their great urgency fills every frame. Focusing on the leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, The Post is a stunning film that plays like a crackerjack suspense thriller but is about nothing less than the survival of the First Amendment and the right of a free press.
You’ll be on the edge of your seat in a movie that is as vital and pertinent now as it was when these events happened nearly half a century ago. Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine “Kay” Graham, and Tom Hanks as Post editor Ben Bradlee simply are extraordinary together in a movie that is supremely entertaining on a cinematic level and a call to action on another. The story, while giving a pulse-pounding account of the discovery, acquisition and risks involved in publishing a four-decade history of America’s involvement in Vietnam, also manages to focus on the human factor, especially in the professional relationship forged between Graham and Bradlee as they, and the fate of the newspaper Graham inherited from her late husband and her father hang in the balance.
The Post wasn’t then what it became later, and they were scooped by the rival New York Times on the revelation of this massive archive secretly commissioned by JFK’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara but not designed to be released for decades. That didn’t stop Bradlee from trying to obtain the Papers themselves and publish under threats of shutdown, lawsuits and a President Nixon who vowed revenge on the fourth estate. Sound familiar? This is as much a movie for Trump’s time, as it was Nixon’s — whose voice from the then-secret White House recording system is used to chilling effect by Spielberg.
The human side is portrayed especially in Graham’s own serious self-doubt, not only about taking on a paper as the only woman at the time to be running a Fortune 500 company but also fighting a board full of men who urge her to keep the paper’s business interests above all else during a sensitive time when they were taking it public. This is a fully dimensional performance from Streep who has never been better, capturing Graham’s vulnerability but also her basic instinct to make the morally right decision. Hanks, taking on a role associated with an iconic, Oscar-winning turn by Jason Robards in 1976’s All the President’s Men, finds his own entrance into Bradlee’s gruff, driven, take-no-prisoners personality.
There is also a fine supporting cast that includes Bob Odenkirk shining brightly as the assistant managing editor who made connection with Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon employee who had the Papers in his hand. The Americans star Matthew Rhys takes that role on nicely, and there are fine turns from Carrie Coon and Tracy Letts, who have standout moments in the newsroom. Bradley Whitford plays Arthur Parsons, a composite of the doubting business types battling Graham, and Sarah Paulson is Bradlee’s wife in a role that seems removed from the action but nonetheless is played well with what she has to work with.
On a filmmaking level, it’s top-notch all the way with superb cinematography from Janusz Kaminski, on-the-money production design from Rick Carter, costumes by the legendary Ann Roth, music from Spielberg regular John Williams and great editing from Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn. Spielberg gives this film a real sense of cinema, a major feat considering how fast it all came together. He also produced with Kristie Macosko Krieger and Amy Pascal. 20th Century Fox platforms it beginning December 22 and goes wide in January in time for Oscar nominations — and there should be plenty of them if there is any justice. All I can say is wow. This is a must-see and a must-see now.
Do you plan to see The Post? Let us know what you think.
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