There are many ways to tactically approach a best picture nomination for the Academy Awards, one of them being to make a film that is relevant to today’s world. It was for this exact reason that Spielberg decided to push this screenplay and direct it as soon as possible as he felt that he story had to be told now. To have that much faith in a screenplay and nearly drop every other project, it must be something special. The urgency to tell this story was worth it as Spielberg homages journalism from the perspective of the journalists themselves in a story about the necessity of truth.
First, we must address the champagne casting of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. I don’t need to remind you that these two are some of the greatest acting talent that the film industry has produced in the last decades, maybe even more. To see these two acting behemoths in scenes together is remarkably satisfying, it just oozes talent for naturalistic performances, but it also helps that the characters they play are very insightful. Editor in chief Ben Bradlee and president of The Washington Post Kay Graham are characters that continuously spark our craving of wanting to know more. Having the star power of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep may cause audiences to overlook the other stars of The Post, my advice, don’t. The supporting performances are just as outstanding as the leads. One such supporting actor is Bob Odenkirk who plays Ben Begdikian, the assistant editor of The Washington Post. His performance steals the show from the other supporting actors which could be down to his character having more of an involving role in the story, again provoking interest.
Our craving is spurred on further by vast amount of zoom to close up camera shots. These types of shot are only seen when the film wants to reveal something about a certain character. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski understands the importance of how to reveal character traits or open doors on their personality, this type of shot trains the audience’s minds so when that shot appears they know to pay attention. It is so simple and yet so clever how this shot can do this but couldn’t be achieved without the experience of Janusz Kaminski.
The equal amount of praise most also goes to editing team of Sarah Broshar and Michael Khan. the cutting is done very well in The Post, and those slow, zoom to close up camera shots challenges the instinct of said editors. You can tell that a lot of time was probably spent debating on when to cut on the films many long takes, and the payoff of those editing decision makes the film more polished. Evidence of this polished work can also be seen with the films use of transitioning via overlapping sound and morphing scenes together with the distraction of close exposed light. Although this is predominantly used in the film’s opening act, it showcases the clean stitching of scenes together for the narrative to move on.
The film centres around the acquisition of highly classified papers on how the US government lied about The Vietnam War, but the acquisition of these papers isn’t made until halfway through the film. This results in the first half feel like a completely different film from the second half. The first half does do its job of introducing the struggles of The Washington Post aiming for higher goals and is approached timidly, however once they get the documents, it becomes this high energy, dramatic conflict of should they or shouldn’t they publish. The tone needed some more work done to it so that the audiences isn’t subjected to boredom.
John Williams team up with Spielberg again for the films score. I won’t deny that his score is great, but due to the realistic approach to this story I do fail to see the need to bring on a composer of such calibre. Realistically approached films have managed to hold their own without the need of a big score, in fact, the film barely needed it at all because the conflict of whether to publish the papers was engaging by itself.
Some people have labelled The Post as the ‘prequel’ to the 1976 drama All the Presidents Men, but I feel this labelling isn’t necessary as while the keen observer may spot one or two things, for the entirety of its run time I never had the thought this could be the case. The film holds itself up very well with Hanks and Streep giving 100% as well as the excellent practical side of film-making displayed. People may applaud it for authenticating the 70’s environment or how relevant the story is today, but I applaud the people behind the camera for making an interesting film to match its interesting piece of American history.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen The Post? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Early Man