The Post - a tale worth telling from the master storyteller
Over the course of a fifty-year career we've come to know that Steven Spielberg can tell a story. He knows that stories need to have a start, middle and end and the The Post is an example of good storytelling. As always with Spielberg the subject of the film is not The Post. In the same way that Jaws is not a film about a shark, The Post is not just about a newspaper and the stories it prints.
The film starts with G.I.s in action in Vietnam with the story shortly letting the viewers know that the US Government is not telling the truth about the war in Vietnam. The Department of Defence, and as it turns out, every US President from Eisenhower to Nixon, including Kennedy and Johnson, were lying to the public. In this true story, a whistle-blower (Matthew Rhys) decides to send a copy of an internal DoD report to The New York Times. Nixon takes out an injunction against the NYT and then it falls to The Post to publish or not.
While commentary on the First Amendment runs throughout the film, for me, two of the core themes were the relationship between the government and the press and how personal relationships can colour reporting. Secondly, there is the struggle of Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), the owner of The Post to survive personally and professionally in an all-male boardroom. While the attitudes and comments of her peers reflect the film's setting in the early seventies, it is a painful reminder that many women face the same daily struggle.
Spielberg is a master of filming the tense "do we publish or don't we" sequences and they don't disappoint. The strong cast led by Streep and Tom Hanks as Post editor Ben Bradlee are in top form. We've come to expect this and they deliver. It is a perfect storm of acting talent and directorial storytelling.
Whether intentional or not, the film's events, set over forty years ago reflect the current struggle between the US Executive branch and the fourth estate. Using actual recordings of Nixon berating The Post one can imagine similar dialogue in today's Oval Office.
In a neat conclusion, Spielberg created a final scenario that ties in neatly with the start of Alan J Pakula's 1976 classic, "All The President's Men".
Whether the film does well or not at the Oscars, it is a film for every generation that comments on abuse of power, abuse of women and abuse of the free press.
4 out of 5