Probably the most impressive thing about Steven Spielberg’s new movie The Post is just how quickly it was made. The film opened on Jan. 12, just nine months after Spielberg first read the script and decided that making this movie, and making it fast, was a must. Taking just over two months to film, Spielberg zipped through the first edit in only three weeks before sending it over to long-time collaborator and composer John Williams. According to a Washington Post story by Stephanie Merry, Spielberg’s efficiency and determination was key: he would even use his spare hours on set to go back and cut down scenes he had already shot.
Why was Spielberg in such a rush to bring The Post to theaters? The answer lies in the film’s timely subject matter: The Washington Post’s attempts to publish The Pentagon Papers in 1971. The documents were a classified government study that detailed how several American presidents had lied to both the people of the United States and Congress regarding the U.S.’s 30-year involvement in the Vietnam War. Part of the papers were at first partially leaked by The New York Times, prompting President Richard Nixon to order the newspaper to stop production through a federal court injunction. The Times appealed, leading to a Supreme Court case.
While this battle raged on, The Washington Post started printing their own stories based on portions of the documents they had obtained. Once again, the government tried to thwart the free press, and The Washington Post was added to The Times’ Supreme Court case. While the newspapers would eventually triumph — the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in their favor — the way the movie highlights the attempts of the Nixon administration to limit the freedom of the press feels particularly relevant in light of the Trump administration’s dealings with the media.
Along with a highly important and pertinent theme, The Post features an all-star cast. The film is led by veterans Meryl Streep, who plays Washington Post publisher Kay Graham, and Tom Hanks, who plays executive editor Ben Bradlee, and each delivers an unsurprisingly stellar performance. Streep’s best scene comes when Graham confronts her long-time friend Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who had commissioned the report. The tension in the scene is palpable and Streep’s delivery is convincingly intense as Graham berates McNamara for sending the children of his friends to a war he knew they could not win.
The rest of the cast, while not as famous in name alone, are all talented actors who have shone in some of the best television shows of the past ten years. Tracy Letts from Homeland, Alison Brie from Community, Zach Woods from The Office and Silicon Valley, Matthew Rhys from The Americans, Sarah Paulson from American Horror Story, Bob Odenkirk and Jesse Plemons from Breaking Bad and Fargo, Carrie Coon, also from Fargo, and Michael Stuhlbarg, who appeared in Fargo too, as well as numerous movies such as A Serious Man, Shape of Water, and Call Me By Your Name, all have supporting roles. If anything, the movie is worth seeing for the acting talent alone.
At times, the movie falters. The message can be heavy-handed, with the screenplay even throwing around the word “collusion,” which has been all over the news concerning Trump’s involvement with Russia. Some scenes feel a bit slow, and in others the drama can feel forced — during some of the big speeches, the dialogue can feel slightly corny, and the swelling of the music and Spielberg’s circling shots add to the tackiness.
Nonetheless, The Post is a outstanding film. Bolstered by a superb cast and an impactful story, The Post delivers a crucial reminder that the freedom of the press is the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and solidifies why it needs to stay that way.
“Meryl Streep's nuanced portrayal of Graham and Spielberg's taste for quietly dramatic direction have created a movie that is in equal parts reflective and inspiring, especially in today's political climate.” 4/5 stars — Naviya Singla, SciTech Editor
"A movie every current or future journalist should watch." 4/5 stars — Marika Yang, Sports Editor
"I found the movie to be very inspiring. It showed just how important and powerful a role the press has in society. Movies like this and Spotlight make me feel really proud to work on a newspaper staff." 5/5 stars — Michelle Madlansacay, Pillbox Editor
“Get ready to cry about the freedom of the press!” 5/5 stars— Nora Mattson, News Editor
"Burdened by audience and genre expectations, the plot occasionally struggles to match the gravitas it is afforded. Nonetheless, Streep's brilliantly understated performance, the timely topic, and Spielberg's deft storytelling make The Post a compelling feat of filmmaking." 4.5/5 stars— Anna Boyle, Art Editor
“While the movie is a bit dragging during the second act, The Post is still a highly important film to watch calling for greater transparency, and the fabulous performances of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep help to propel this movie to a level of emotion and inspiration that only Steven Spielberg can evoke from a motion picture.” 4/5 stars—Izzy Sio, Pillbox Editor