As of writing this, The Post has already been nominated for and received multiple awards. The critical acclaim cannot be denied. However, the film is not without flaws.
The Post is a historical drama directed by Steven Spielberg primarily about The Washington Post’s role in informing the American people about the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers were a series of government studies analyzing the effectiveness and justification of military action in Vietnam. The film centers around The Washington Post’s legal and moral conflict over deciding whether or not to publish this information from classified documents. It also examines how these events were taking place at the same time that the Post was becoming a publicly traded company.
The film’s top-billed stars are Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Kay Graham. Bradlee, an editor at the paper, deals primarily with the other journalist characters in the film. He also often meets with Graham to discuss difficult decisions or the day to day happenings of the paper. Kay, whose family owned the Washington Post, was the publisher and overseer of the Post as a company. One of the biggest flaws I saw in the film was the way Hanks and Streep handled their respective characters. Particularly, it is clear that they are attempting to adopt speech patterns and mannerisms to reflect the real-life people they are portraying. Sometimes this works well and serves to make them more compelling and complex. Other times, however, it seemed to get in the way. It appeared that an attempt to move or speak in a certain way was distracting and inhibited them from acting organically. It was a bit surprising to see this from two veteran actors.
Personally, I found Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian to be my favorite aspect of the film. Maybe it is because I am currently studying and working as a journalist that this is the case. More often than not his character was the one making phone calls, investigating, and ultimately obtaining the classified documents used to write the Pentagon Paper story. It was also fun to see an unintentional Mr. Show reunion between Odenkirk and David Cross, who played a reporter in the film.
Another flaw I had with The Post was its execution of the underlying message about women in positions of power. This is clearly a timely and important topic to be examined through the film. In no way do I think this shouldn’t have played an integral role in the story. However, I felt that the film struggled to decide whether it would develop this theme through action or exposition. Instead of sticking to one, the film made an attempt to do both. Particularly toward the end of the film, multiple characters are given somewhat repetitive monologues addressing the importance of Kay Graham as the leader of the Washington Post. It was actually sad to me that the movie didn’t handle this better because it truly is something that films have an important opportunity to address.
Overall I enjoyed The Post, particularly as someone actively involved in journalism. Despite the flaws I addressed, it was still an appropriate film to put the current political climate of the U.S. in historical perspective. It also serves as an interesting prequel to All The Presidents Men, giving more emotion and backstory to the Watergate scandal that followed the publishing of the Pentagon Papers story.