What’s a newspaper?
After her husband kills herself, Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) becomes the first female publisher of a major American newspaper with the Washington Post. And for awhile, under her tutelage and before, it was a relatively cozy, carefree newspaper that was fine as it was, but never really pushed the envelope, so to speak. But in the early-70’s, the times were about to change with help from editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), who wants for the paper to be more than it is. That’s why when he finds about Dan Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) and his report about the war in Vietnam, he races right for it, even when the New York Times had the same story, same person, and same source, yet, because of outside government interference, weren’t allowed to roll with it. Which begs the question: If it’s that jaw-dropping and controversial, why should the Post put it out? Better yet, should they be allowed to? This is what ultimately comes between Bradlee and Graham, as the two not only ruffle each other’s feathers, but practically the whole world’s, too.
The Post feels so very much of the time in which we’re currently living, that it makes me happy that it’s out now, as opposed to a whole year or so later. For one, the political-climate, hopefully, will be much different, but also, who knows what’s to come of modern-day journalism as we know it? President Trump, his administration, and all sorts of rich right-wing Republicans have made it known that they do not like the way journalism is in today’s day and age and with every outlet we see swallowed-up, comes another notion that the world of journalism may be changing to becoming less and less based on actual fact, and more biased, depending on who’s paying the bills.
It’s scary and downright terrifying, especially for a journalist like myself, and it’s why the Post works as well as it does. It deals with these issues of journalism that feel very of the time, despite the movie being set in the early-70’s, but it also doesn’t forget to tell a story, with compelling characters, and make sense of why it’s so damn relevant and above all else, matters. The Pentagon Papers’ publishing changed the way journalism is read and seen and it’s why the Post, despite not quite reaching the same heights it sets out to hit, still gets the job done in reminding us why it all matters.
It also does a solid job of reminding us that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest journeymen directors of our time and that will never change, regardless of age, time, or hell, subject-material.
Even at the ripe age of 71, Spielberg may not find ways to surprise us, but he finds himself tackling something surprisingly a little more taut, small, and contained, that it’s exciting when the movie finally takes off. Sure, the first-half is meant to help introduce us to these characters, the setting, and the climate, but once we get past all of that, it’s balls to the walls and rather exciting, in only the way Spielberg can do. It’s cheesy and there’s still no doubt in my mind that Spielberg is definitely playing within his wheelhouse again, but what a wheelhouse it is.
It’s also great because Spielberg is working with such a solid ensemble here, that almost every second of it is ripe with a great deal of enjoyment. Hanks is perfect as Bradlee, totally dialing in on this man’s brash, raw, and rough attitude that made him one of the best writers/editors of our times, whereas Streep dials it all back, yet, is still equally as effective as Katharine Graham, the sole woman in a man’s world/game. In fact, her story/performance is the true heart and soul of the Post, as we get to know and understand why the breaking of this story matters, and why, her being the owner of the paper itself, matters. She’s a woman, doing her best to stick with a job and a social-environment that would be much happier seeing her in the kitchen, getting dinner ready; the Graham we get here, wouldn’t be caught dead near a oven and it’s another sign that Streep, believe it or not, is one of the greatest actresses of all-time.
The one issue that keeps me away from absolutely loving and adoring the Post, like I probably should, is that it all leads up to this one moment that we know is coming and when it does come, like true Spielberg-fashion, it doesn’t know how to end. It harmonizes and goes on, and on, and on, making it seem like Spielberg, and co-writers Josh Singer and Elizabeth Hannah are just going to make their points known about every little issue that they possibly can and it becomes a little bit too much. There comes a moment when the movie needs to end, but it doesn’t and it instead, goes on longer than it needs to, almost to the point of self-importance. A part of me thinks that this has to do with it being pure Oscar-bait, but another part of me feels like these people just have a soapbox to stand on and they aren’t getting off of it.
And while I’m always fine with that, especially when I agree with the preaching, sometimes, enough is enough. Point taken. Move on.
Consensus: Like you’d expect from Spielberg, the Post is entertaining, well-acted, and smart, that it culminates in a timely, somewhat important history-lesson, doubling itself as a crowd-pleaser, too.
7.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: 20th Century Fox