Movie Review: The Post
Director: Steven Spielberg
by Jason Koenigsberg
I am willing to bet that about two years ago Steven Spielberg saw Spotlight when it was making its theatrical run to eventually win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. I am also willing to bet that Spielberg liked Spotlight and thought to himself, “hey, I could do that only better”. Well he found a script that pretty much matched Spotlight‘s, was able to get the two most celebrated American actors of the baby boom generation with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep to fill the lead roles and has delivered his powerful drama commemorating the outstanding work that hardworking journalists can do.
The Post opens up with sounds and images of the Vietnam war. One of this films best aspects is how it is about history and very much reflects our current state with powerful politicians in heated battle with the media. Then it was about classified secrets today it is over “fake news”. Both during Vietnam and now Americans have a lack of faith in our government which does not look like it will ever change. The Post tells the story of a decades long cover up involving the Vietnam war. Meryl Streep plays Kay Graham the first female newspaper publisher and Tom Hanks is her determined editor trying to push her to publish a story that could disgrace President Nixon, Robert McNamara and a number of other Washington D.C. power players. It was a story that went before the Supreme Court and helped put The Washington Post on the map as a national news source.
The look of The Post falls in line with all of Spielberg’s other films for the past 25 years that have been shot by his longtime director of photography Janusz Kaminski. He uses soft lighting on the face and allows light to penetrate through windows. A lot of shots are close up when the film needs to create a claustrophobic and suspenseful tone. John Williams score at those points emphasizes strings to add to the mood. Spielberg once again shows that he is a master storyteller and manages to get seamless performances from his two iconic leads. Streep and Hanks are professionals doing their job as they flawlessly plunge into these performances of two professional reporters doing their job. Streep purposefully stands out as a woman doing a man’s job in a man’s world. But there is much more going in in her performance since her character has a personal friendship with Robert McNamara played eloquently by Bruce Greenwood. Her acting displays the conflict of interest and inner turmoil she has with protecting her paper and livelihood and also doing what is best for the nation and upholding the principles of the first amendment.
Spielberg has collaborated with Hanks many times since Saving Private Ryan (1998) however this is his first time working with Academy favorite Meryl Streep in both of their long and illustrious careers. It turns out that this is a match made in heaven and Streep turns in another outstanding performance, one that should earn the great actress her 21st Academy Award nomination. Years ago actors used to work for Spielberg in hopes that they would star in a big hit and earn a lot of money, now in his later years Spielberg has turned into an actors director and guides performers to bring out the best in them. Hard to believe but Spielberg has only directed two Academy Award winning performances and they both came this decade, Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012) and Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies (2015). Streep and Hanks could both easily win Oscars for their roles as reporters forced to challenge the US government over their convictions and belief in the truth and our nation having a free press.
The good news is that both Hanks and Streep live up to their reputation as the greatest actors of their era and give Oscar worthy performances. This is Spielberg’s love letter to journalism and the fact that freedom of speech is still the right that makes the United States such a special country. The Post feels like it ties in perfectly with All The President’s Men (1976), often regarded as the best movie ever made about the integrity of the free press. When that movie was released Spielberg was still a Wonder Kid specializing in big studio blockbusters such as Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Those movies from that era of his career are some of the best of their kind, but we are all fortunate that Spielberg has continued to grow and evolve and can make a mature intellectual thriller that can be just as moving as his films that brought out our inner child and filled us with awe. The Post is one of the best movies of the year.