Pulled in, and swept away. That is the immediate sensation that this film gives you. It isn’t one you’re immediately aware of either, because you’re initially so entranced. Director Steven Spielberg is the snake charmer, and we, my friends, are the snakes.
The Post is the 1970s-political thriller we never knew we needed. Yet it is devilishly relevant to the current dystopian political landscape in which we now reside, where “fake news” and apathy to the truth runs rampant in our society.
The film is based on the true story of the Washington Post journalists who risked everything to publish Pentagon Papers in their newspaper, which revealed shocking realities about the United States government and its covert involvement in the Vietnam War… at the forefront of which the U.S. government knew they couldn’t win the war, but sent young American men to their deaths anyway. At its heart, The Post is about the importance of maintaining our journalistic and news reporting autonomy—it’s about standing up to The Man.
Thus, in every frame of this film is a great momentum and a sense of small people reaching outwards and upwards to challenge something more powerful than themselves. Long, sweeping camera movements raise us up into the dramatic climax, so that we are no longer just insignificant audience members gazing up at the big screen. No, we are there with them, the little people, the fighters-for and believers-in the truth. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and Production Designer Rick Carter are two people that should be acknowledged here, as well as the ever-satisfying Spielberg, who immediately made this world feel so real. The camera-work specifically was wondrous; a quick zoom here, a whizz of movement, and then cut to stillness. A decision must be made to lay down the guns or go to war with the government. This moment requires quiet, motionless perfection, and we receive it.
Every pair of horn-rimmed glasses, every strand of sticky, waxed-back hair, and that one, singular, flowing dress that Meryl Streep wears—my goodness, you’ll know it when you see it—shows that it isn’t just the British that can do a good period piece. With the likes of Streep, Tom Hanks, and Bob Odenkirk, the film’s stars demonstrate meticulous acting with Streep, as always, being the shiniest star amidst a glowing cast. Playing Kay Graham, the Washington Post owner and the country’s first female newspaper publisher, Streep fills out her character and makes her into her own person, with those delightful, sweet mannerisms and wily, intelligent eyes we know and love so well. Her on-screen chemistry with Hanks is evident and their dialogue is quick, earnest and powerful. Bravo to the screenwriters, Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, who have created such conflicting dialogue—the best kind there is. The humanity of this film will, although not a comedy, undoubtedly make you laugh. Hank’s numerous, “Oh, shit!”’s, and Streep walking into a meeting full of men as the only woman there, with her head raised high, an amiable but astute smile on her lips, pull this film back down to earth. In fact, the second most important storyline alongside the newspapers-versus-government one, is Streep’s personal journey to find her voice. Wonderfully, the climax of both these plot lines happen in the same scene almost simultaneously, and I couldn’t help admiring the craftiness in this writing.
While the editing (brilliant jump-cuts and visual bridges), style, lighting and acting will force you to agree with Time Magazine’s decision to nominate The Post as one of the top 10 films of 2017, it is not these that stay with you days after watching this film. It is the knowledge that this film has endowed us. The knowledge that no matter what kind of crazy, probably-actually-insane world leader is currently crowing from the elitist nest, we should always question. We should never lie down and accept. We must hold on to our autonomy. Just as President Nixon threatened Graham and the newspapers then, people like Trump threaten our truths now. And we must never forget it.
The Post is in cinemas now.