Ah, yes. No matter how one chooses to approach this film, all of the allusions to contemporary issues in our society are practically unavoidable. Not only that, but it could be argued that The Post was made in direct response to a certain orange-skinned wannabe fascist in chief’s seemingly personal tirade against the fifth estate. Once legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg got his hands on the spec script by first time screenwriter Liz Hannah, post-production on the forthcoming Ready Player One was slowed down, and The Post was rushed into production just this past summer – while would probably explain the presence of so many well-known and acclaimed television actors being stunt cast into supporting roles – and completed just in time for a late season awards run.
But putting all of that aside, this film is just a cracking good time and at the very least, it provides a fairly compelling and extremely necessary history lesson for those of us who might be just young enough to not fully recollect or understand the depths of what was going on during that particular time in history, seeing as how once again we’re regrettably stuck in another cycle of similar issues being thrust into the middle of our contemporary political discourse.
The Post stars none other than Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as Kay Graham and Ben Bradlee, the owner and editor in chief of The Washington Post, respectively. Despite being set primarily during the early 70’s, with the Vietnam war still hot and fresh on everyone’s minds, The Post contains a number of plot threads and socio-political issues that might ring a few bells. So, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a woman in a high-ranking position of power is still met with opposition on a daily basis from her male coworkers, ranging from common everyday sexism to outright attempts to thwart her and undermine her wishes. Meanwhile, institutions of journalism all over the country are faced with the moral dilemma of upholding their promise to faithfully reporting the absolute truth to a very needy and fearful public, all the while dealing with a presidential administration that’s constantly dealing brand new lows of treasonous behavior never before seen by the country before this period of time in US history.
Yeah, I don’t see how this is relevant to today *at all*…
While I’ve already addressed the modern day relevance of telling this particular story and telling it now, that entire aspect of The Post really cannot be overstated. It’s as central to the entire production of this film as the fact that Birdman, or: the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance was made to look like one entire single shot, or that Boyhood was filmed over the course of twelve years using the exact same cast and crew. Were we not dealing with these specific issues at this specific period of time under this specific administration, The Post likely wouldn’t be as relevant as it is now, nor would it probably have even have been made at all. And it’s this slavish devotion to getting its central message across that really drives this film right down to its very core. Like it or not, Steven Spielberg is a very old fashioned filmmaker at heart, and this film is like the modern day equivalent to a classic era morality tale, where every facet of the story is manufactured for maximum impact of getting the main thesis of the whole thing across. With that in mind, The Post certainly does this very well, and proves to be an effective cautionary thriller with a deeply felt moral center.
In regards to most of Steven Spielberg’s more mature, adult oriented dramas, there is a common thread that seems to impact them all – usually for the worse – and The Post isn’t immune to this very particular flaw either. I am of course referring to Spielberg’s tendency to lean towards a more self-congratulatory, sentimental-adjacent tonality when reaching the climaxes of his works. Whereas the majority of The Post is fairly restrained and understated regarding its tone and the delivery of plot information and period details to the audience, Spielberg’s insistence to oversell a handful of moments during the final act has always proven to be a hindrance when trying to remain consistently engaged in the proceedings, and this film is no exception.
Like Schindler’s List, Amistad, Munich, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies before it, The Post isn’t rendered completely inert because of this, and it barely makes a large impact in the grand scheme of things. But ending the film on a slightly more introspective note probably would’ve resonated a lot better. We already know that the first amendment important and freedom of the press is… y’know, a good thing. Heck, we’re being constantly reminded of it on literally a daily basis, so there’s no desperate need to reinforce this point so emphatically.
“Oh good lord, what did the President say THIS time?”
Another successful addition to Steven Spielberg’s ever growing filmography, The Post does all that it needed to and does it effectively. It’s not as huge of a smash hit as some of Spielberg’s past historical dramas, but it’s still an effective and engaging watch that presents its subject in a manner which is fairly easy to follow but also doesn’t downgrade it in the process, nor does it treat its audience as being too simple-minded to follow along. And given all the modern day parallels to the story the film is telling, it might be useful to re-educate yourself on how best to remain vigilant in times of seemingly nonstop treasonous behavior emerging from Washington, and how to best resist the impulses from the most powerful among us when they try to silence those who might seek to oppose them or call them out on their unjust behavior.
The Post (2017) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: for each modern day parallel you pick up on.
Do another Shot: along with each dramatic typewriter clang.
Shotgun a Beer: when you see a well known/acclaimed television actor being stunt cast in a supporting role.
Finish an Entire Six Pack: during the thirty minutes of studio logos before the film even starts.