As I was scrolling down IMDb to check the credits on The Post, I stumbled onto this user review titled “Watch it for the love of your Country.” In it, the writer stated, “In this age of ‘fake news’ its [sic] a reminder of the part that the free press plays in a democracy.” Numerous outlets have focused their entire discussion of this film around how “timely” it is, how “important” it is, and how, to quote the AV Club’s headline, “No, Mr. President, you will not like The Post.”
This is because The Post seems designed with all the self-importance in the world, dripping from head to toe with winks and nods to the audience to remind them that censorship is bad and that there ain’t no stoppin’ us now, even when the government hates us. The Post is a bad movie, one that cares less about crafting any ounce of tension or real introspection into the lives of these characters than it does giving Meryl Streep as Kay Graham a chance to pause, furrow her brow while thinking, remove her glasses, and deliver a line that will land her an Oscar nomination.
It turns everyone into a villain or a savior: those who think publishing the Pentagon papers should happen and those who don’t. Numerous conversations are dragged out beyond salvation when they could simply have been boiled down to a loop of Tom Hanks’ Ben Bradlee reading “do it” in different accents while a collection of indistinguishable white male actors respond “don’t do it.”
Beat after predictable beat, Liz Hannah and Josh Singer inelegantly navigate plot and dialogue in the worst way, leaning in hard on moral dilemma where there really should be none (especially considering other papers, including The New York Times, had published stories and removed said urgency from the narrative). It’s the flattest work that Steven Spielberg has delivered in years, from overbearing score to muddled cinematography, and it makes you long for the days when he had Tony Kushner by his side, imbuing period dramas/thrillers like Munich and Lincoln with the momentum and stakes that a film like this desperately needed.
Just as the conversation around The Post has been dedicated to describing it as a “response to the Trump era,” I will dedicate this review to dismissing that notion. Nothing about this film is ground-breaking or necessary. People of color standing up in the face of white supremacy rising in politics is a response to the Trump era. Queer people continuing to live their lives when the government thinks they can be cured is a response to the Trump era. Women no longer being silenced by men who think they can sexually harass and assault them is a response to the Trump era.
I realize that this review reads more like a condemnation of how The Post has been covered and marketed, but the mythologizing of people just doing their job as messiahs comes across as an undeserved pat on the back by the filmmakers for being the people on the right side of history. The Post isn’t brave or interesting enough to make any kind of statement past a surface level, “We need a free press.” As true as that statement is, it’s a statement that deserves better than this.
Directed by Steven Spielberg; written Liz Hannah & Josh Singer; starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, and Pat Healy; 115 minutes.