“The Post” is nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture. (Photo courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures)
For a historical drama, “The Post” had a lot going in its favor. Steven Spielberg has directed a number of quality historical dramas in the past, from “Schindler’s List” to “Lincoln.” Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are both talented actors, and the story is one that is topical in today’s political climate. So why was the end product what it was?
Becoming aware of a government cover up that has lasted through several presidential administrations in regards to the Vietnam War, a military analysist (Matthew Rhys) leaks top secret information known as the Pentagon Papers. As this happens, the Washington Post works to report on the information despite the heavying retaliation from the Nixon Administration.
The one thing that “The Post” does exceptionally well across the board is the performances. Everyone from Hanks to Bob Odenkirk gives a good performance, and Streep’s portrayal of the Washington Post owner Kay Graham is easily the best thing about the movie.
A lot of the technical aspects are very good as well. The directing from Spielberg is top notch as it almost always is, and the camera work helps to make the scenes visually interesting. While all of these technical elements are impeccable in their performance, they do not seem to correctly fit the movie.
For example, the movie feels sort of like an action movie with the way it is directed, shot, edited and musically scored to make it feel more dramatic. That is probably what was intended, and it is not poorly done in that regard, but it does not work for “The Post.” While the story the journalists are working on is big and important, an action movie feeling does not fit with what they are doing. Perfect examples of how to do the tone exists in movies like “Spotlight” and “All the President’s Men” where they have slower and more meticulous pacing so that it feels like the journalists in those movies are actually working on a news story, not working to diffuse a bomb like the pacing of “The Post” would be more appropriate for.
Another thing that must be pointed out is the writing. There are a lot of movies that go out and explain what they are about, but there is a difference between explaining and beating the audience over the head about it. “The Post” is the latter, as it tells instead of shows. The major theme of the movie is about the freedom of the press, and the filmmakers make sure that the audience knows that.
There are a number of speeches people give throughout the movie, which are all heavy handed. They are heavy handed in the way that it over explains what the movie is about and dates the message because it feels more like the movie is using the speeches to criticize Donald Trump then to actually make a case for the importance of a free press. In simplest terms, “The Post” tells the audience the message instead of showing them the message.
“The Post” has a very simplistic and convenient way of telling the story. An example of convenience is the plot of the movie starts off by having a character (Matthew Rhys) learn that something is amiss and release a bunch of secret documents. That is set off by him being told one thing and then overhearing something different from the same person, when the person who originally lied would have known that Rhys was still around. An example of the movie being simplistic is that the actual work the journalists go through to get the information necessary to write their story all just seems to work out for them. They immediately know who to reach out to, they do so and then they have their information. There are no high points, low points or points where their view on the story changes, they just do not have the information and then they have all the information they need.
People like Spielberg, Streep and Hanks are all talented when it comes to movies like this. Unfortunately, there was too much that either did not fit or did not reach its full potential for even these three power players combined to make the material anything interesting or worthwhile.
Final Grade: C