The Post is directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, and Matthew Rhys.
A film directed by Steven Spielberg that happens to star acting legends like Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks is practically begging for Oscars. Calling The Post an Oscarbait film would be like calling Michael Bay a special effects addict; it's so obvious that you don't need it spelled out for you. But unlike Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks are all very talented people who you know are going to deliver the goods, especially for a movie like The Post that, despite depicting a story from back in the '70s, has its intentions dead set on taking jabs at the Trump administration. Spielberg has been vocal about the current Presidency being the primary reason he wanted to make The Post, especially since The Post takes place at a time when a Republican President, Richard Nixon, was in the White House and was rather shaky in his relationship with the media. And though there's nothing truly explicit about The Post that would drive a wedge between Trump supporters and Trump opponents, the connections that the film has to today's political climate is impossible to ignore.
The Post tells the story of the journalists at The Washington Post, who attempt to publish the Pentagon Papers, highly classified documents that contain information about the United States government's 30-year involvement in the Vietnam War. Daniel Ellsberg, a military contractor for the RAND Corporation, secretively obtains and photocopies reports of the U.S.'s involvement in the Vietnam conflict, which he finds dates back to the Truman administration. Ellsberg leaks the information to reporters at The New York Times, but after some of the information is published, a court injunction halts the Times from publishing any more content. Meanwhile, Washington Post owner and publisher Katharine Graham (Streep), struggles with keeping the paper economically afloat, while editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Hanks) works with the other journalists to track down the Times' source, knowing that publishing more content could result in serious legal action against the Washington Post.
Thrillers are not what first come to my mind when I think of Steven Spielberg films, but with Duel, Jaws, and most recently The Post, Spielberg has certainly proven to be adept at crafting thrillers and turning them into compelling stories. Unlike Duel and Jaws, The Post finds thrills by generating excitement out of the story's realism and what it means for all of the individuals involved. We don't fear that someone's life is on the line; we grip our arm rests anticipating what is to come next, as we await decisions that will affect the future course of events and the futures of the people who will be affected by said decisions. In the case of The Post, it's Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee, and the journalists of the Washington Post who will all be affected.
- Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks each deliver a great performance. Oh, you guessed that already? Well, the unique thing about these performances is that both Streep and Hanks share in Spielberg's motivation in the current state of the government and in the divide between the media and the Trump administration. Streep has been incredibly vocal on her thoughts about the current political climate, highlighted by her speech at the 2017 Golden Globes. Hanks hasn't been as vocal, but he did call the current political climate "hellacious" in an interview with CNN right around the time this movie was released. I have no interest in discussing in any sort of length Streep and Hank's respective political stances; I only mention their public comments as I have no doubt that the two used their beliefs on the current Presidency as a fuel for their performances. Streep and Hanks are inspired in their roles, and inspiration is one of the mightiest forces behind a great performance. The two want to convince audiences that a story like this one, involving tension between the press and the government, is all too relevant in today's world and something that we can all get on board with, no matter our personal political stance. Being two actors of such high caliber, that's exactly what they do.
- Basically nothing about The Post bothered me in any meaningful way, except for a final scene that feels forcibly latched on and like it's doing the very awkward task of trying to give the movie a sequel. Actually, the "sequel" to The Post was made back in 1976: Alan J. Pakula's All the President's Men. It's a scene that is completely disjointed from all of the previous events we just witnessed, and instead of people finishing the movie thinking, "Well done Mr. Spielberg. I really enjoyed that", people are more likely to think, "Good movie, but why did it end on that?" Normally, there's little to nothing to be had from harping on a mere one-two minutes in the middle of a movie, but when those one to two minutes come right at the end, you better believe people are gonna remember it.
So in conclusion, The Post is very much an Oscarbait film, but damn is it a good one. Spielberg brings his always reliable direction, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are as good as ever, and the movie is especially interesting to watch because of the real world politics that clearly inspired all of those involved in the production. Streep and Hanks also get a hefty boost from the supporting cast; Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Sarah Paulson, and others all bring their A-game to a film that has an extremely good reason for being made today. It's a historical thriller that everyone, regardless of political stance, can get behind and appreciate, and for however long there is a split between the media and the government, The Post will remain entirely relevant.
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