Film Review: The Post

Updated on February 1, 2018
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Review written by: Josh Kristianto, Film Frenzy Contributing Writer.

Background

In 2017, Steven Spielberg released The Post, based on the true story of The Washington Post journalists’ attempts to publish the Pentagon Papers. Starring Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, and Zach Woods, the film has grossed a domestic total of $83 million as of Jan. 28, 2018.

Synopsis

Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of The Washington Post, is in the middle of solidifying a deal infusing much-needed cash into her company when a major competitor publishes revealing classified documents pertaining to the Vietnam War. As Graham and her executive editor Ben Bradlee rush to obtain these documents for their own reporters, it soon becomes clear they face legal jeopardy if they choose to publish too. Graham must now decide whether to push ahead in the interest of the public or retreat for the sake of her newspaper’s future.

Review

Through simple and elegant style, Spielberg delivers a grossly compelling and timely story capturing the soul of American journalism through the people who live it. Carried along by a commanding performance by Streep as Graham, The Post is full of sweat and suspense, taking audiences on a pulsating ride as exhilarating as a reporter’s approaching deadline. Spielberg portrays the conflict between high idealism and safe pragmatism with such precision and care, it will leave viewers cheering at the story’s resolution.

The Post starts out by giving the audience some context, diving right into a battle during the Vietnam War. Daniel Ellsberg, a State Department military analyst, is on the field documenting the war effort on behalf of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. After overhearing McNamara essentially lie about how well the war was going to the press, Ellsberg becomes disenchanted, later deciding to steal a load of sensitive, revealing classified documents later known as the Pentagon Papers, leaking them at first to The New York Times.

The story then progresses through the lens of staffers in The Washington Post. At the time, it was a budding family newspaper. It is interesting the filmmakers chose to tell the plot from this angle since they weren’t the first publication to get their hands on the leak. Yet, it may be the case that the risk in publishing the classified documents was greater for The Post. This certainly intensifies the film in every respect.

The film runs much like a suspense, building drama through conflicting interests and passionate dialogue, taking some time getting through establishing who the characters are and what situation The Washington Post is in. However, the film picks up once they gain access to Ellsberg and his stolen document. This is the moment the story blooms into something great. Spielberg uses simple problem-reaction storytelling, though utilizing the characters and specific scenes to add depth and meaning to every decision made. The camera shots and slow movements lend a simplicity to the storytelling, allowing the actors and plot developments themselves to carry the film along.

Both Streep and Hanks do splendidly well together. Their interactions on screen highlight the reliance of the characters on each other, serving as a place where the audience can anchor themselves in relative comfort in the midst of surrounding turmoil. The filmmakers also made sure to highlight the tenacity of Graham. Streep shines brightly here, invoking a calm and dignified leader who still shows pure emotion at times. The supporting actors all play their parts well enough, and Spielberg doesn’t waste any talent on poor dialogue. It all adds up to a convincing portrayal of events with proper vigor to each scene.


The heart of The Post lies really in the moral questions and principles the film tackles, especially when it comes to ethical journalism. Some of these questions include the balance between news writing and profitability, the relationship between journalists and their sources, and notably whether the press has a greater responsibility to the government, its investors, or to the people and the truth. The filmmakers tackle all these questions in different ways, but most satisfyingly with the last one. Hanks acts as the principled journalist through which this question finds its hero; on two occasions in the film, he powerfully spells out what journalism is all about. All these things make for a wonderfully emotional resolution at the end of the film satisfying both the principled American mind and the idealistic heart.

5 stars for The Post

Awards/Recognitions

Bold indicates reception of award/recognition

Academy Awards

  • Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Meryl Streep)

AARP Movies for Grownups Awards

  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)

AFI Awards, USA

  • Movie of the Year

American Cinema Editors, USA – Eddie Awards

  • Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic

Art Directors Guild Awards

  • Excellence in Production Design Award – Period Film

Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Editing
  • Best Actor (Tom Hanks)

Casting Society of America, USA – Artios Awards

  • Outstanding Achievement in Casting – Big Budget Feature – Drama

Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Score
  • Actor of the Year (Tracy Letts)
  • Best Ensemble

Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor (Tom Hanks)
  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Director)

Denver Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)

Detroit Film Critic Society US Awards

  • Best Ensemble
  • Best Screenplay

Florida Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Cinematography

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Motion Picture – Drama
  • Best Director – Motion Picture
  • Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Tom Hanks)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Original Score – Motion Picture

Houston Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Screenplay
  • Best Original Score

Indiana Film Journalists Association, US Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Ensemble Acting

Indiewire Critics’ Poll

  • Best Film

Iowa Film Critics Awards

  • Best Original Score

National Board of Review, USA Awards

  • Best Film
  • Best Actor (Tom Hanks)
  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)

National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA

  • Best Supporting Actor (Michael Stuhlbarg)

New York Film Critics, Online Awards

  • Top Films of the Year

North Carolina Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Narrative Film
  • Best Director
  • Best Actor (Tom Hanks)
  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Original Screenplay

North Texas Film Critics Association, US Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Gary Murray Award (Best Ensemble)
  • Best Actor (Tom Hanks)
  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Director

Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Body of Work (Michael Stuhlbarg)
  • Best Body of Work (Tracy Letts)

Online Film & Television Association Film Awards

  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Ensemble
  • Best Movie Poster

Online Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Ensemble

PGA Awards

  • Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures

Phoenix Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Mystery or Thriller Film
  • Best Screenplay

Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Ensemble Acting

San Diego Film Critics Society aWards

  • Best Body of Work (Michael Stuhlbarg)
  • Best Editing
  • Best Ensemble

San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Film Editing

Seattle Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Ensemble Cat

Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Ensemble
  • Best Picture

St. Louis Film Critics Association, US Awards

  • Best Film
  • Best Director
  • Best Actor (Tom Hanks)
  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Editing
  • Best Score

Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards

  • Joe Barber Award (Best Portrayal of Washington, DC)
  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Acting Ensemble

Women Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Karen Morley Award

Women’s Image Network Awards

  • Outstanding Feature Film
  • Outstanding Actress Feature Film (Meryl Streep)

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