“News is the first rough draft of history.”
The Post…as in the Washington Post. This political/journalism drama, directed by Steven Spielberg, pairs screen legends Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and Washington Post CEO Katharine (“Kat”) Graham respectively.
Matthew Rhys (The Americans) gets the key role that ties everything together as State Dept. military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, the person who exposed the Pentagon Papers, which are the classified documents about U.S. involvement in Vietnam over several years and presidencies.
Several different journalist continue his mission to expose this highly classified information amid huge personal and professional risk. The Post should not really classified as a thriller since there is no direct life-or-death tension, but certainly has high interest and emotional heft.
The Post is also a well-timed release about the rights of the press, the press’ history with government relations and the pioneering roles of women in business. It’s a well-acted work that summarizes many of the events, but is best when it sticks to the newsroom. Knowledge of journalistic jargon and key historical events will enhance this experience.
Streep stars as Graham who has relationships with many powerful political leaders in Washington. She eventually finds her own power through bold decisions and strategy that endangers profitability, but supports truth and justice. “Quality drives profitability,” says Graham.
Katherine gets much needed support from her daughter Lally, well played by Alison Brie (The LEGO Movie, GLOW, TV’s Mad Men) who really showcases promising potential among several scenes with Streep.
Katherine’s professional colleagues provide considerable challenge…and support. Bradley Whitford (TV’s The West Wing) plays Katherine’s main detractor Arthur Parsons while Tracy Letts (August Osage County) offers more respect, trust and positive outlook in Katherine’s skills and decision making as her close confidante Fritz Beebe. Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days) and Michael Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water) also have important roles as Robert McNamara and A.M. Rosenthal respectively.
Hanks’ role as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee pushes quality to a high level in his work while dealing with some personal setbacks resulting from the Pentagon Paper revelations. His
Ben and Katherine’s work takes precedent though filmmakers touch on previous background events involving famous people and tragic family events. No flashbacks are used for this background as the plot focuses on The Pentagon Papers. Sarah Paulson (American Crime Story) co-stars as Bradlee’s wife Antoinette who doesn’t get much screen time until halfway through the 116-minute plot.
Bradlee’s professional support comes from his colleagues that include Howard Simons played by the familiar voiced actor David Cross, Meg Greenfield played by Carrie Coon and Philip L. Geyelin played by Pat Healy.
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) optimizes his subtle intelligence as assistant managing editor Ben Bagdikian who is one of the film’s most endearing and straight shooting character. “I always wanted to be part of a small rebellion,” says Ben.
Spielberg’s direction has a unique close quartered style even in the exterior sequences like a collective group of protestors in an exterior sequence. Focus reflects in the story too and has great moments and smart dialogue based on the real-life events. The great ending uses actual audio clips from important figures.
Josh Singer (Spotlight, The Fifth Estate) co-writes the screenplay with producer Liz Hannah who makes her feature screenwriting debut. This iconic time in history predictably creates a high nostalgic factor.
Spielberg’s veteran crew and composer John Williams boost the technical aspects of the film including sound/music, visuals, camera movements, flow and overall transitions. Janusz Kamiński captures the time period well as veteran editor Michael Kahn teams with Sarah Broshar so filmmakers were able to get the film edited a mere two weeks after principal photography.
The Post, is the National Board of Review’s best film for 2017 as well as an unofficial prequel to the 1976 film All the President’s Men, which addressed the Watergate scandal, comes recommended (*** out of four stars) and is rated PG-13 for language and brief war violence.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler