Movie Review: “The Post” – Lives In The Light

Written by Jeremiah Greville January 26, 2018

The Post

There are timely movies, and then there’s the past year in cinema. With racism and partisan divide seemingly on the rise, and sexism being widely spoken about, Get Out and Lady Bird are both nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, and Best Actor and Best Actress respectively. That’s no small feat any year. And in the first year of a presidency opposed to critical journalism, we get a movie like The Post. That’s no small feat either. This isn’t just coincidence or good timing — these were deliberate choices for the world we live in today. Oh, and what’s that? The Post is nominated for Best Picture too.

The Post is directed by Steven Spielberg, and stars Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee. It’s set in the early 1970’s and follows Graham and Bradlee as they argue over whether to print the Pentagon Papers — a cache of top secret documents revealing thirty years of American involvement in Vietnam. All this while Graham struggles with the financial realities of taking the Washington Post public, and keeping it running. There aren’t many spoilers to be had in this film, so I won’t bother with warnings. It’s already history. In the end, they publish. The Post is a movie about what it meant for them to publish, and the implications and concessions that came with it.

“I don’t like hypothetical questions.”

As I mentioned before, it’s no accident that The Post came out when it did. Spielberg was in post-production on Ready Player One when he received the script for The Post. After reading it, he rushed the film into production because it “wasn’t something that could wait three or two years”. It was filmed entirely within the first year of the Trump presidency, from pre-production to release. So it’s a very safe assumption, regardless of your politics, that The Post is a reaction to Trump. Considering its content, that reaction is a negative one. However, The Post isn’t just about a newspaper against the White House. It’s about sexism and capitalism and nepotistic interest. It’s about what comes first: your friends, or your country. Your duty, or your desire. It’s about difficult choices, and doing what’s right despite the consequences.

The Post

Some have complained about Spielberg and Hanks both being snubbed by the Oscars for their work on the film. Both men bring their best to the table, but Streep’s performance is on another level. She earns her record-breaking twenty-first nomination with a role few performers could hope to fill so well. Graham is a woman just getting accustomed to her own power, and how that power conflicts with 70’s sexism. Streep demonstrates a depth of character we rarely see in these types of performances. Graham is accustomed to her easy position, and genuinely troubled to act against her friends. She’s beset by male power dynamics and a million opinions from all sides, but Streep never lets Graham become too perfect or pernicious. The Post is largely about Graham finding her own voice and power amid a patriarchal din. And Streep is absolutely wonderful in it.

“Nixon’s taking us to court?”

One of the themes in The Post is the idea of risk and blame. It’s revealed in the Pentagon Papers that several administrations refused to pull out of Vietnam because no administration wanted to shoulder the blame for losing the war. Spielberg, and writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, deliberately compare and contrast this with Streep’s Graham. Graham famously inherited The Washington Post from her father, and then her late husband. Throughout the film she expresses repeatedly just how much she doesn’t want to be the one to lose it. Though historically The New York Times were the first to publish the Pentagon Papers, The Post focuses on The Washington Post specifically because of this theme. The Post isn’t just about speaking truth to power, but specifically about Graham’s position at the time.

The Post

The Post can be criticized for framing The Washington Post as the most important outlet in the story. However, at no point does the film deny that The New York Times published the papers first. Hank’s Bradlee is framed as a reactionary to the Times specifically — it’s his primary motivation to reach their level or surpass it. Yes, The Post does oversell its own history and importance, but not to the detriment of historical truth. What the Times did was about journalistic integrity with unknown consequences. The Post is about journalistic integrity with known consequences—it’s a film about weighing the options fully, and making an informed decision. This is why the film ultimately works. It’s one thing to be the first guy to jump off a cliff. It’s another thing entirely to decide to jump after seeing the first guy go splat. The Post is a movie about the second guy.

“I know what’s at stake.”

All of this is to say: The Post is very good. It’s an Oscar-bait film for sure, but there’s a reason Oscar-bait films are what they are. The film is impeccably directed, solidly acted, and filled to the brim with talented character actors. It’s tense and well-paced, and makes you care about a time in history that mirrors this one. It’s a timely film about the importance of good reporting, the spectre of sexism, and the price of the truth. For anyone whose kept up with modern journalism and the current administration, this is the movie for you. There are no explosions or flashy action scenes, just tense discussion of what’s right and wrong. The Washington Post’s current motto is ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’. The Post reminds us that truth and law can live in the light.

My Rating. 8.5/10

The Post

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

There are currently no comments on Movie Review: “The Post” – Lives In The Light. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment