Verge Reviews: The Post

Hanks, Streep and Spielberg. Some would argue this could be Hollywood’s finest trio. All three have played their part in creating some of the most memorable and groundbreaking films of the last 25 years, picking up multiple Academy Awards between them. It should come to no surprise to you then that The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks has a lot of people excited.

Nominated for six Golden Globes, and a few more accolades to come I would bet, The Post tells the fascinating story of how the Washington Post races against and works with The New York Times to expose a monumental cover-up on the Vietnam War, spanning over three decades and the Presidencies of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon in what is now commonly known as The Pentagon Papers. In 1966, journalist Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) is sent to Vietnam to report on how the US are faring in the war, discovering that despite his findings and based on his own experience that current US Secretary of Defence Bob McNamara was not relaying the same truths to the American people. Fast forward to 1971 and The New York Times publish the first set of papers that expose the cover up and are swiftly suspended by President Nixon allowing The Washington Post’s editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and led by their first female publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), time to run their own stories of the cover up. Torn between risking investors money, her friendships and reputation with previous Presidencies and McNamara and her desire to help uncover the truth, Graham is forced to make a decision that risks the future of the family business and one that plays a vital role in ensuring freedom of the press.

Meryl Streep, Director Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks on the set of THE POST. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise.

As you’d expect with Hanks and Streep heading the bill, the performances are obviously and unquestionably top notch. Hanks plays the role of gruff, loveable rogue Bradlee perfectly. With his authority constantly being questioned and his desire for The Washington Post to be considered as one of the world’s leading papers, Hanks’ Bradlee is not only charming but incredibly endearing. His passion for wanting to improve the paper’s reputation but also his desire to help inform the World of the shambolic behaviour of the exposed Presidents is both powerful and humorous with perfectly executed one-liners. The performances of Bradlee’s hard-working and honest team of journalists are also fantastic, with David Cross (sporting an unusually thick head of hair), Alison Brie, Pat Healy, Carrie Coon and a special mention in particular for Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of Ben Bagdikian who pieces The Post’s stories together with excellent wit and humility.

Outside the journalistic HQ, Jesse Plemons and Sarah Poulson both give great performances as lawyer Roger Clark and Hanks’ wife Tony Pinchot Bradlee respectively but it really is yet another incredible performance from the unrivalled Meryl Streep who steals the show. Given the enormous responsibility of the role and the impact that Mrs Graham had, Streep gives an incredibly humble performance. It is a delight to see her triumph over her doubting male advisors and colleagues by risking everything and coming out on top. There’s a wonderful scene where one of her advisors continues to refer to The Washington Post as her Father’s business as he implores her to reconsider publishing the papers and her response is an emphatic “If you still think of this as my Father’s or Husband’s paper, then maybe you shouldn’t be in my boardroom”. There’s not many better ways to inspire a young generation of Women than telling it as simply as that.

Moving onto the Direction and Spielberg does well to make the storyline flow as quickly as possible but it does take a while to get going and it certainly lose it’s punchiness towards the end. There’s a lot of attempting to build suspense which does come off but you do find yourself getting a bit agitated, wanting the decisions to be made to help speed things up again. There are though as you’d expect, some beautifully choreographed scenes that has the usual Spielberg trademarks all over them. The scenes in Bradlee’s house are fun and so smooth to watch and there’s a scene towards the end that is so touching. After leaving the Supreme Court hearing, Mrs Graham is walking out, declining to make a statement in front of the crowds and press and she is watched and adored by a gathering of young and inspired women, a stark contrast to the male dominated boardroom scenes where she is the only woman in there.

It’s funny isn’t it, how a film set over 40 years ago can still have such an empowering and topical message. The Post delivers it’s own message about freedom of the press and serves as a warning to those who think they can silence it. In this day and age of social media and ‘fake news’ we should be able to demand that all forms of press whose aim is to help inform the people are given the privilege and not be restricted. I’m looking at you, President Trump. Equally, 2018 has been called The Year Of The Woman and with the treatment of women in Hollywood being exposed as utterly appalling, whether it’s through sexual harassment or the difference in pay between male and female stars, The Post will clearly resonate with a huge amount of women. If you find it hard to relate to modern pop stars or film stars as role models then please look no further than the ballsy and inspirational Katharine Graham and Meryl Streep.

It’s fair to say that it’s very rare to see a film, that was set in the 1970’s, resonate with so many people. The Post isn’t Spielberg’s most groundbreaking or spectacular project, but given it’s messages it may just be his most powerful film since Saving Private Ryan.

Rating: 4/5
The Post is released on Friday 19th January. Watch the trailer here