This is the first film to star acting gods Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks together, and as evidenced by the movie poster (where their names are literally larger than the movie title), it was kind of a big deal.
The perennial Oscar nominees shine and the great ensemble of character actors use their screen time perfectly, but the story is the star of the film. Honestly, after getting home from watching this movie I realized exactly how boring it should be, but it wasn’t. Katherine Graham (played by Streep) is the first female publisher for the Washington Post. Graham spends the majority of the film wrestling with sexism, her dedication to the family business, and her own insecurities about being a leader. Meanwhile her editor, Ben Bradlee (Hanks) is known for being a journalistic “pirate” and thinks he has a shot to break the biggest story of his career; The Pentagon Paper.
More often than not nowadays I find myself rewinding a movie because I must have missed some important moment only to find that I did not miss anything at all. Usually this happens because the writer or director forgets to add important connecting tissue somewhere in an expositional scene. This film does not have that problem. Spielberg does a masterful job at emphasizing the importance of what could seem trivial then finding a way to call back to it later on. He also does a wonderful job at getting the most out of his actors that have very little screen time. It’s true that the majority of the film is centered around Tom and Meryl (we’re on a first name basis now) but wowza does Spielberg get some great performances out of actors that are on screen for 10 minutes or less.
::Spoilers but not Spoilers::
There are moments at the end of this movie that I thought to myself “Who the hell is that?” or “Where has that person been?” only to immediately stop caring because the performances were so well delivered. Carrie Coon from HBO’s The Leftover’s and FX’s Fargo is in this movie and I’m pretty sure I didn’t know that until 3 minutes before the credits began rolling.
::No More Spoilers not Spoilers:::
I’ve often thought that this type of film is the hardest to do well. Essentially this is a movie about obtaining, organizing, and distributing documents to the American people. Oh and by the way, if you know anything about American history you already know the ending. Would Fight Club or The Usual Suspects have been as entertaining had you known the ending before the film was even written? Making this kind of movie engaging and exciting is very difficult. It’s also a film about a profession which can sometimes be a cinematic pitfall. Frequently movies that are based on journalism romanticize the job to an almost nauseating degree, I didn’t get that feeling from The Post. Nothing seemed overly contrived or self-aggrandizing. In this heated political climate we live in The Post could have very well shoved the merits of trusting journalism down our throats. Spielberg could have asked Tom Hanks to stare directly into the camera and talk about how a president should never actively try to delegitimize the press simply because it does not portray them as wonderful; which is what Nixon did. Instead, The Post just tells the story and a very good story at that.
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