Dec 19, 2018
Welcome back to the podcast, as we transition from Netflix Originals to four great films currently streaming on HBO. Today is the first of two Spielberg films this week, today’s an Oscar contender in 2018, and this Saturday’s review is likely an Oscar contender for 2019. Today’s film is amazingly the first Spielberg film we’ve reviewed for the podcast. If you have any suggestions, contact us at onemoviepunch.com or reach out over social media.
Today’s movie is “The Post” (2017), the Oscar-nominated historical drama directed by Steven Spielberg and written for the screen by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. The film follows Washington Post CEO Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), who works with her editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) to expose the various deceptions of the United States government throughout the Vietnam War, at the risk of their company, careers, and freedom. The film was nominated for Best Picture and Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Actress at the 2018 Oscars.
Steven Spielberg was probably the most influential director during my childhood, especially the movies during his meteoric rise after the success of “Jaws”. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “E.T.”, “Hook”, and especially “Jurassic Park”. All the family friendly films that will inspire generations to come. However, when I got to college in the late 1990s, and when I had a little extra spending money, I went to see “Saving Private Ryan” and had one of the most uncomfortable moviegoing experiences of my life. It made me realize there’s a whole other side to his career, and I went back to watch “The Color Purple”, “Empire of the Sun”, “Amistad”, and “Schindler’s List”. I did a lot of growing up at the rental store that year. It also made me realize why everyone wants to work with Spielberg at least once in their career, and sometimes, quite a bit. He is truly a master of the craft, and today’s film is no exception.
“The Post” definitely falls into the latter group of films, tackling the events leading up to the leak of the Pentagon Papers, a study commissioned from the Rand Corporation to evaluate US involvement in Vietnam and the surrounding countries. It is one of the most significant events in our nation’s history, and one that has great bearing on today’s journalism. Spielberg’s choice to focus on the Washington Post helps frame the larger issue, but at the expense of telling the story of Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) who mostly acts as a supporting character. It is still a compelling story, however, one which Liz Hannah and Josh Singer use to criticize the press for their often too-close ties to government for access as much as it praises them in the end for doing the right thing in the public interest to bring an end to an unjust war. It is also an important story, even if it boils down to elite actors still deciding what’s in the public interest. I wish today’s press had even an ounce of the courage or capability of the newsrooms depicted in this film, because we might be in a better place than we are now.
Social and political criticism aside, Spielberg uses his pull to assemble an amazing cast of A-list celebrities, for both leading and supporting roles. Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie, Jesse Plemons. The cast is simply amazing, but Spielberg knows how to capture every moment in this film, with amazing moving long takes in tight spaces and well-crafted montages to carry the story. Every moment builds towards the publication, using great sets, period-perfect costumes, and the right filters and color patterns to capture the era. All those details that help a film transcend from good to great, and in Spielberg’s case, from great to exceptional.
“The Post” (2017) is a focused look at the role of the press in the leak of the Pentagon Papers, with an incredible cast of characters, and directed by one of the best film-makers of all time. Informative, engaging, and insightful, both as a story, and as a larger look at the relationship between the press and the government. Fans of Spielberg’s work, or anyone who wants to know just how badly we managed the Vietnam War, should definitely check out this film. And I hope the stinger scene one day leads to a sequel of sorts to cover the fall of Nixon.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
Metacritic: 83 (MUST SEE)
One Movie Punch: 9.2/10
“The Post” (2017) is rated PG-13 and is currently streaming on HBO.