2018 in Cinema:
The Post, 2018
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Poulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys
How to make an Oscar-worthy film:
- Hire an Oscar-winning director: Steven Spielberg, check.
- Hire an Oscar-winning leading actress: Meryl Streep, check.
- Hire an Oscar-winning leading actor: Tom Hanks, check.
- Hire an Oscar-winning writer to help write the film: Josh Singer, check.
- Hire an Oscar-winning editor: Michael Kahn, check.
- Hire an Oscar-winning musician: John Williams, check.
- Hire an Oscar-winning cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski, check.
- Having it based on a true story sometimes helps, preferably an American true story (for a BAFTA, have a British true story), check.
- Releasing it during awards-season (January-March) also helps, check.
Well, The Post certainly fits the bill. Back in the early-1970’s The New York Times started releasing highly classified government documents (the Pentagon Papers) relating to undisclosed information about the involvement of the government in the Vietnam War. After President Nixon orders an injunction to stop the New York Times from publishing, only for the Washington Post to subsequently get hold of the documents, forcing the owner, Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer), to have to make the ultimate decision of whether to publish the documents, despite the New York Times’ injunction, and risk prison.
Looking at everyone involved, from its on-screen stars to those behind the camera, it could have been so easy for everyone involved to give a nothing-special performance and just rely on their names and the nature of the film to drive it through, but, they all deliver solid performances to make a very entertaining film. They manage to build up everything surrounding the ultimate decision that Katharine has to make (although I was slightly annoyed that the trailers basically told us the film is centred around her decision and this film is based on a true story meaning surely the government can’t win..), with long spells dedicated to the actual war, the man who stole the documents, the fact that Katharine is a woman (and all the men trying to boss her around), the fact that the Washington Post is a small-time newspaper struggling to make money, the events over at the New York Times; it all comes together to make a tense finale as all sides are seen offering their opinion on Katharine’s decision.
I was quite surprised, though, about how little, technically, the Washington Post actually did in this series of events for a film to be made in their name. The New York Times leaked the documents (and subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for it) and initiated the legal battle between the government and the press, yet a film was made about the Washington Post’s involvement when all they really did as get hold of the papers and publish them after the Washington Post already had. And this sense of not really having too much involvement in it is sensed in the film, as a lot of time is spent with Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump) just trying to get hold of the papers in a playing catch-up style mission, and it is quickly ignored when they point out most of the smaller local papers also published content from it (and is considered a victory for the Washington Post, despite their key story being told by any and all competitors). And seeing this does make the film slow down a bit, as our protagonists aren’t the ones doing the research, they aren’t the ones threatened by the government for the most part, and that’s probably the only real criticism I have of the film, and it’s not a major criticism, but it did feel, at times, as if the pacing was a little off when compared to something like Spotlight.
Streep and Hanks both give excellent performances, more so Hanks, whose passion in his character, Editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee, is noticeable, however I have seen better from both of them, which isn’t a criticism, with a catalogue as wide as theirs it’ll take something exceptional to top their list. The supporting cast also play their roles really well, too, not hiding away in the stellar-names that accompany them. And a lot of the visuals are very impressive, not surprising considering Spielberg’s films are often visually beautiful and he’s used the same team for a large number of them.
Whether or not it performs well at the upcoming Oscars remains to be seen (Spotlight won Best Picture, amongst others, being a newspaper-themed movie) but the sheer amount of Academy Awards collectively held by all parties involved must be staggering. Even more so considering the budget (according to Wikipedia) was only $50m, I would have thought simply hiring everyone involved would have exceeded that amount. The Post is a very good drama with fantastic acting and beautiful visuals and accompanying sounds, but it does feel, especially early on, that the pacing is a bit slower than it needs to be early on.
Plot: * * * Acting: * * * * Writing: * * * * Presentation: * * * *