You might think that shaping a drama around “a newspaper that didn’t break the story” would be an odd sell. And yet, there it is: The Post is about a newspaper, the Washington Post, which was beaten by the New York Times in 1971 in exposing the Defence Department’s secret history of the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers.
After the Times published lengthy articles drawn from the archive, the administration of President Richard M. Nixon took out a restraining order that barred the newspaper from running further reports about the Papers. Soon, the Post obtained copies of portions of the archive and began publishing reports of its own until it, too, came under a federal court order to desist. Both newspapers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and at the end of June 1971 won a 6-to-3 verdict lifting the restraints.
The movie’s centrepiece is that the Post and its senior leadership — Katharine Graham, the publisher, and Ben Bradlee, the executive editor — showed great courage in risking jail as they hoisted the banner of press freedom while the Times was prevented from reporting about the Papers.
If you desire to watch white, privileged baby-boomers, bathed in self-congratulation, realize that – shock, horror – the US government lies to the American people. This is one for you. When you think Steven Spielberg films, you think energy, thrills, great adventure — all served over an excellent score (by John Williams). The Post replaces many of the ingredients that form a Spielberg motion picture with scene after scene of agonizing preachiness. This might be the worst thing he’s ever filmed.
If there’s one thing The Post does well it’s capturing the time period. Yet, there’s a great deal the film can’t pull off. The flow of the story has a significant number of false starts, the John Williams score isn’t as good as his other material, and there are several minutes that are most likely the lamest I’ve found in a Spielberg movie. The films that made him popular have popcorn components like a frenzied shark, aliens, or dinosaurs, After Schindler’s List, he’s veered more into straight-up dramatizations. The results have been mixed. “The Terminal,” dreadful; “Lincoln,” great. “The Post” is a pizza burn on the roof of the world’s mouth.
There’s a scene toward the end of the film when the camera pulls in tight on Carrie Coon’s character after she quiets the newsroom and rehashes a Supreme Court judge’s recap of their verdict. It’s not only the greatest eye-roll of this film, I can’t think of a greater one in any other Spielberg motion picture.
VERDICT: The Post makes the oft-opined point that the key to a healthy democracy is a thriving and a free press. It likewise makes the point that Spielberg can shit this formless blob in his slumber. Defenders of the film will report about how good Meryl Streep is, (Mercifully she varies this sort of bollocks with singing and laughing through every single minute of dialogue) how great the supporting cast of basic-cable regulars are, and how important this film is, without acknowledging that it’s also tedious beyond all reason. If there was a single intelligent thought in this movie it would have died from loneliness.