Spielberg. Streep. Hanks.
Those three names involved in the same film garners a high amount of respect. With eight Academy Awards between the three of them and this being the first time ever that Meryl Streep has worked with both director Steven Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks, there was already a level of hype surrounding The Post that sparked my interest. The director that made me fall in love with movies. An actor I grew up watching. An actress who is the absolute elite in her craft. Those ingredients alone had sold me on watching the film.
Then came the subject matter, which only intrigued me even more.
The Post centers on the secret Pentagon Papers that reveal the false reasonings that prolonged the United States’ military involvement in Vietnam, and the Washington Post’s decision to publish them in the shadow of President Nixon’s prosecution of the New York Times for doing the same. The story is told primarily through the eyes of our two main characters, The Washington Post’s publisher Kay Graham (Streep) and executive editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks). Through every legal hurdle and threats from a secretive administration, as well as the anxious opinions from investors, Graham and Bradlee are faced with the detrimental decision: face potential prosecution and incarceration for publishing the truth or lose their journalistic integrity for caving to the Nixon administration.
The Post was thirty-two-year-old writer Liz Hannah’s first screenplay to be turned into a feature film, having reached number two on the 2016 Black List. Producer Amy Pascal won the auction for the script and immediately got it into the hands of Steven Spielberg. With only a couple of completed scripts under her belt, Hannah was teamed up with screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight), whose experience with journalism stories and on-set writing would be added to the story. Hannah and Singer would go on to be nominated for Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Golden Globes.
Hannah’s success is a definite inspiration for myself, as I have my own list of passion projects I hope to produce one day.
Spielberg’s direction of this film mirror a couple of his past films revolving around the era of the 1970s. The quick delivery of dialogue and pacing of the film mimic Catch Me If You Can, while those tense moments between the actual stealing/copying of the Pentagon Papers and the tough decisions Graham and Bradlee have to make resemble the ‘quiet, yet intense’ moments of Munich. The staples of a Spielberg film are ever present in this film. The slow approach to a speaking character. The wide angles during conversation, showing the vast area the characters are inhabiting. Even shots as basic as showing the newspaper press machine as it rolls and prints stories onto the long, unfurled paper carry a calculated importance thanks to the legendary director behind the camera. Teamed with a perfect sound recreation of a ‘70s print newsroom and a score composed by John Williams that drives the tension, the authenticity of the film excels.
And then there’s Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.
It’s hard to believe that these two icons in the film industry have never worked together on screen. Especially seeing the two of them seamlessly play off each other as if they had been collaborating on screen for years. Hanks captures the bravado of Ben Bradlee, even pinpointing the raspiness and hint of gravel in his throat to mimic the voice of the legendary newsman. Meanwhile, Streep is perfection as she embodies the first female publisher of a major newspaper. In a world dominated by men, Streep portrays Kay Graham as a woman who is unsure of herself and following the direction of her handlers. When the moment arrives where the future and credibility of her newspaper is on the line, Streep beams as Graham attains the confidence and strength to make the necessary decision, and therefore becoming the powerful publisher she came to be. Partnered with strong supporting performances by Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson and Matthew Rhys, the character portrayals were true to form and true to their era.
The Post has garnered a Best Actress nomination for Meryl Streep along with its Best Picture nomination. It also works perfectly as a prequel to All The President’s Men, ending right where the classic picks up. Steven Spielberg, once signed onto the film, made it a goal of his to make this film and have it released quickly due to its comparison to our current political atmosphere. He has been quoted as saying that this film is his response to the “fake news” attacks on the media today. No moment in this film makes that more apparent than when Carrie Coon’s character recites the judicial statement made after the impending court case:
“In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”
This is The Post.