Starring: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk
Director: Steven Spielberg
Running Time: 116 mins
The Post is an American film about the true story of the events surrounding the leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and how journalists from the Washington Post took on the US government in a battle of freedom to publish the story.
A historical drama directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Effectively the biggest display of the modern Hollywood formula you can imagine. However, having the three Hollywood titans all together isn’t all that bad, as The Post, albeit initially slow-starting and rather dry, achieves its main job as a historically fascinating story that teaches you a lot, and manages to deliver its story with some good passion.
In truth, the film’s main story doesn’t really get going until about halfway through. At first, there’s no denying that The Post struggles to really grip you as it meanders through a series of less-than-stellar character introductions, and fails to offer up enough passion and drama as you see the government chastising The New York Times for first publishing leaks of the Pentagon Papers.
As a result, this film isn’t quite as exceptional in its first half, however once the story takes a big turn, and it’s suddenly The Washington Post that’s on the front line, things become really interesting. Firstly, the central theme about freedom of the press and the relationship between the government and the press is fascinating to watch. With numerous nods to modern politics, it’s an intriguing and relatable central premise, and is delivered with real passion throughout, to the point where this feels like more than just a by-the-numbers historical drama.
Secondly, the way that the film turns the dial up to eleven in its second half is really impressive. With invigorating passion in its central theme, a rapid-moving pace, and a whole range of performances that go from fairly wordy to fully active, I was thrilled by how the film managd to burst into life as the going gets really tough. As a result, The Post not only teaches you a whole lot about the history of the Pentagon Papers, but also proves a massively entertaining watch as you delve into all of the nitty-gritty legalese and more at rapid pace, something that I can’t see I’ve seen before.
Spielberg does a great job at directing that part of the movie, managing to come back from that fairly dry first act with the invigorating energy, while screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer deserve huge praise for taking you very deep into some rather complex and convoluted legal and political concepts, and yet managing to keep it very easy to follow and understand all the way through, doubling the entertainment factor.
I’m sure that if you’re someone who finds history like this really boring, then you may not take to The Post quite as much, however I was hugely impressed by how much I learnt and was engrossed by this story, given how complex it appears on the outside.
Finally, we need to look at the performances. Tom Hanks is great in his role as the head of the newsroom at The Washingtong Post, while Meryl Streep puts in her most impressive performance in years, refraining from any sort of overacting and instead being both a very likable presence as well as a fully convincing character. What’s more is that the two of them have great chemistry on screen, and with the brilliantly-written screenplay, the pair’s various chats and conversations speed along both naturally and rivetingly.
On the whole, The Post is a very competent and ultimately riveting drama. There are of course moments where Spielberg defers to some fairly disappointing Hollywood cheese when trying to be inspiring, and some of the film’s other political themes beyond the press freedom aspect don’t quite land as strongly, which is occasionally frustrating to see.
Overall, however, I really liked this film. It’s a little dry at times, and it’s not quite the best we’ve seen from Spielberg, but with a story that ultimately turns into both a fascinating and surprisingly entertaining watch, as well as a very well-written screenplay and some strong performances, The Post is definitely worth your time, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.