Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Movie Review: "The Post" (2017)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

The story of the Washington Post and the decision of its owner Kay Graham to defy a court order and publish the Pentagon Papers.

The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Without them, the United States would not be the United States. Right at the top of the list embedded in the First Amendment is the freedom of the press. You cannot have a democracy without it. Throughout the years, there have been challenges to what that 'freedom of the press' truly means. One such moment was in the 1970's after the New York Times published what was known as the 'Pentagon Papers.' The federal government sued The New York Times and got an injunction on publishing any more of the documents, claiming the release of more of the papers would be damaging to the ongoing military effort in Vietnam. "The Post" is the story of what happened next. The film is directed by legendary director Steven Spielberg and stars legendary actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Streep plays Kay Graham, who was the owner of the Washington Post which, at the time, was a relatively small family-owned paper about to have its initial public offering. Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, the editor-in-chief of the Washington Post. Joining them are an ensemble cast including Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Allison Brie, David Cross, Carrie Coon, and Jesse Plemons, just to name a few.

"The Post" tackles the importance of a free press and the cost of what it would mean to the American people if those in power ever tried to stifle it. It was a watershed moment in our country, one everyone should learn about from now until the end of time. Overall, this film is a very well shot historical drama that is very Steven Spielberg in its style and overall feel. It falls right in line with the movies he has made in the recent past with films like "Lincoln," "Amistad," or "Bridge of Spies." Spielberg has a keen attention to detail. Everything in this film looks very 1970's, which is something that can't always be said for period piece movies.

Meryl Streep is wonderful as Kay Graham, a woman who had to change her way of thinking in order to attack the problem presented to her. Her character starts out taking a back seat to the men around her. She plays the socialite role admirably but doesn't seem like the boss of a major publication in the beginning. Even when men speak politics after dinner, she leaves the room with the rest of the women to attend to less important gossip-type talk. At one point, Kay finds her strength and listens to her heart in order to do what is right in spite of the advice of the men around her. Streep's portrayal is very nuanced and subtle but oh so powerful at the same time. There is a specific scene towards the end of the movie that left us in awe of Streep's raw talent yet again. It is acted so well, in fact, that I didn't realize I was crying until her scene ended. Tom Hanks delivers another fine performance as Ben Bradlee but uses a gravelly vocal tone that felt a bit distracting to us. Though he does have a few shining moments, Hanks definitely takes a back seat to Streep in this instance. Other notable performances include Bradley Whitford's disagreeable portrayal of Arthur Parsons, Tracy Letts' imitation of the supportive yet cautious Fritz Beebe, Bob Odenkirk's thorough but slightly paranoid depiction as journalist Ben Bagdikian, and Sarah Paulson's powerhouse performance as Ben Bradlee's "not just another wife on the telephone" Tony. That being said, the movie does take a bit of time to really get going. The first half of the film isn't nearly as engaging as the second half despite its meticulous inclusion of the history surrounding the leadup to the publication of the Pentagon Papers. In the end, we do believe most viewers will be satisfied watching "The Post" due to Meryl Streep's superb acting, Steven Spielberg's great visuals, the movie's powerful message, and its stellar, tension-filled finale.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~88%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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