The Post

February, 2018, Drama

No one will ever accuse prolific director Steven Spielberg of filing to recognize America’s movie-going tastes. Whether it’s his assorted output of science fiction, (Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, Jaws) fantasy (Indiana Jones, E.T.) and historical drama (Amistad, Lincoln, Schindler’s List) Spielberg combines abundant artistic skill with a shrewd sense of popular cinematic appetite. So given the chaotic nature of our national politics, what better time to return to the pre-Watergate era when a divided Supreme Court upheld the public’s right to know trumped the government’s right to suppress information?

Tom Hanks plays profane Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee while Meryl Strep portrays diminutive Kay Graham, the paper’s owner.  When renegade intellectual Daniel Ellsberg defies Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara by leaking a highly critical report on our government’s conduct of the Vietnam War, The Post employs one of its reporters to contact Ellsberg and obtain the lengthy, highly classified document. But by the time they have done so, sections have already been leaked to The New York Times, which is immediately forbidden to publish anything further pending the court’s review.

The Post presents the ensuing political tug of war quite lucidly, pitting government officials’ desire for managing public opinion against the journalistic obligation to publish facts citizens need in order to form opinions on important issues. Yet despite its emotionally satisfying climax, The Post suffers from a padded screenplay (lemonade stands and tucking kids into bed?) that frequently veers off into sentimental pap. More importantly, the likeable Hanks (a Spielberg favorite) is woefully miscast as the acerbic Bradlee and the script curses Streep with a script that forces her to interpret her character as indecisive. If screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer had allowed Streep to give hints of inner strength earlier in the plot, her shrewdness and resounding courage in the final reel would have played more effectively.

Composer John Williams adds another competent score to his long career while cinematographer Janusz Kaminski cameras are both unobtrusive and unimaginative in capturing the storyline. While The Post covers its important theme adequately, this one doesn’t hold a candle to its Nixonian twin, Alan Pakula’s 44 year-old feverishly brilliant All The Presidents Men.

 

 The Verdict? A hastily constructed movie that in the right hands and with greater creative imagination could have been a great one.

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