Meryl Streep. Tom Hanks. Steven Spielberg. It’s so easy to take for granted how good these titans are, it’s almost boring to see them churn out another great film. But the triumvirate at the center of The Post, which details the newspaper’s salvo into political prominence with its publishing of classified government documents regarding the Vietnam war, deliver an exhilarating, thrilling testament to the importance of a free press. The movie is timeless, the fashion and setting of the early 70s don’t choke the film with nostalgia, and yet it’s also, almost accidentally, the perfect movie for our current existence: an aggressive, contrarian president who cultivates a distrust in the media while seeking to bury his own criminal activity (you know, allegedly). It’s also a movie that explores the rise of feminism through Post publisher Kay Graham (Streep) and her authority, as it is questioned, challenged, and undermined by the men that surround her.
The Post is a brilliant film, one that takes a story where the ending is known and still makes every phone call, every argument, every action feel important, new and exciting. Streep, usually the best thing in a mediocre movie gives her best performance in years without any aggressive tics or accents or singing or heavy makeup to just be this fully-realized complicated hero, a woman thrust into a position of power, without much experience or support, and showcasing her conviction and determination along with her frustration and doubt. As her dogged foil, Ben Bradlee (Hanks) challenges her, but also conveys a respect, to her position, her person, and to the concept of a free press.
Spielberg’s direction is typically flawless, working with a script from Liz Hannah and Josh Singer that gives such tremendous weight to the small moments. Supporting turns from Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Bruce Greenwood, Bradley Whitford, Jesse Plemmons, Carrie Coon and more help to present a world, and a time period in full glory. It’s a movie with lasting resonance, a big picture dissertation on the freedom of the press, showcased through a group of complex characters who at their care merely take pride in their role as the watchdog of the governed.
My Grade – A