The New York Times has just published papers that show the US governments involvement in prolonging the Vietnam war. Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee, owner and editor of the Washington Post, find themselves playing catch up, but when the Times is tried in court, the Post has a tricky decision: to carry on publishing and face possible jail time or fight the government’s attempt to censor the free press.
Now, I could gush about the acting of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as our key players. They do the great job you expect them to, as well as all of the bit players that you usually see around this time doing the supporting roles. Can I just say that with all the recognisable faces in this film, in even the most minor roles, it became a bit distracting playing the game of “oh it’s….. Alison Brie or Bob Odenkirk or Michael Stulbarg or David Cross”.
I could also reference the message held within the film, not only about the need for free press, but the treatment of women in the workplace and in history which is commendable and vital in this day and age. All this is fine as Spielberg intended as this film is clearly made to win awards. Which is fine, its fine, this is fine. It just gives The Post a certain level of clinical perfection that gets under the skin, as it is both well made and the story is interesting, but the film itself has no spark, its boring.
However, there is one major thing keeping The Post off my list for the big award contenders, and that is the story structure. The film does not feel complete. It sets the scene for the decision to publish those papers, then it quickly rushes through the court’s decisions without exploring the characters’ doubt and guilt. It is a film of two halves, where the second half was not made. I suppose that this story direction would have taken the film out of Katherine Graham’s hands and thus crippled the film’s key theme. The ending, however, is nothing short of laughable, with a quick shout out to the Watergate scandal right at the end of the film. I mean, why, after referencing quite a big story, and a big decision, would you reference another one? What purpose does it serve? Other than to go, “ahhhh the Watergate do you remember that!?”
However, even the theme becomes slightly lost as you are unsure of who the main character is until the end of the film. It turns out it is actually Katherine’s film, but from the way the film is made, it could have been Ben Bradlee or a reporter under him, Ben Bagdikian. This may be partially due to Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep sharing the screen together; you expect either of them to be the lead. It is likely that this was down to the way that Katherine has been written. Now, while she does go through an arch, that much is clear, her characterisation has up until the moment she decides to publish, been passive, pushed around and submissive to the other members of her board and to her employees. While this does emphasise the message of the film, the treatment of women in power, I would have liked to have focused more on her struggle with the decision. Some more psychological exploration rather than historical. The paper stuff is nice and it’s exciting, but it shouldn’t be important to the film.
So The Post is slightly boring, lifeless and its structure is awkward to say the least. But other than that, Speilberg has provided a well-acted film with an interesting story, full of the familiar faces you always see for awards season. I am sure it will win an Oscar because despite its flaws it does what it was designed to do. Now before you comment that I am a contrarian, I did actually like The Post, however I cannot and will not rate it as highly as other critics have because it cannot and will not be remembered past its home release in the grand scheme of Spielberg’s career, or Hank’s, or Streep’s. Who remembers Charlie’s War, who remembers Bridge of Spies, who remembers Florence Foster Jenkins, no one and no one will remember The Post.
You can watch The Post in cinemas now