Sometimes you take Steven Spielberg for granted. Then you watch one of his films.
Nearly 50 years into his professional directorial career, Spielberg has reminded the world that no one else directs this well and makes it look this easy.
His timely real-life story of press freedom and holding power to account starts slow. Writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer sketch an impression of a Washington Post newsroom creaking under internal financial constraints and external pressure from a belligerent White House. The character work is strong, but just like Executive Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) you can’t help but feel the real story is elsewhere.
The first act slides by a little underwhelmingly, but everything changes when the Post get hold of the explosive Pentagon Papers and the film reveals its true colours. Because for all the passionate speeches, The Post isn’t really about the defence of a free press. It’s about one woman in a man’s world, stuck in no man’s land between her editorial instincts and her paper’s survival.
As Managing Director Katharine Graham, Meryl Streep plays her arc beautifully, growing from a self-conscious outsider to a woman in full command. The nuances in her performance are complex and full of empathy for Graham’s nightmare dilemma, and she is aided by some of Spielberg’s finest directorial flourishes. He is still one of the finest constructors of mise-en-scène around, adding depth to every scene. His camera guides you through every room, catching glances and gestures in so natural and potent a manner that it seems Spielberg’s way is the only way this moment could have ever happened.
The Post starts slow but packs a punch, with its incredible lead performances and a final hour which is among the best that Spielberg’s ever put on a big screen.
CAST: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Jesse Plemons, Tracy Letts
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
WRITERS: Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
SYNOPSIS: A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.