Lining up an A-list cast and one of the most well-known directors of all time, Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” was released in theaters in January. Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Bob Odenkirk, the film should have been a massive success, but its drab pacing and poorly-executed drama undercuts its powerful talent.
Set in New York City and Washington D.C. in newsrooms in the midst of the Vietnam War era, “The Post” explores the drama surrounding freedom of the press in a sensitive period in American history.
Kay Graham, played by Streep, must try and keep the Washington Post afloat in a market dominated by the New York Times. When her executive editor Ben Bradlee, played by Hanks, stumbles across a leaked collection of Pentagon documents that could unseat the Nixon Administration, she must make the decision whether to publish articles on the documents or not.
With a dramatic question of principle over compliance at its core, the story of “The Post” is ripe for incredible storytelling. The actors at its center, Hanks and Streep, are marvelous in their roles. Streep embodies the nervous-turned-confident persona of Graham with grace, and Hanks brings a fierce energy to Bradlee that is endlessly charming. Odenkirk shines in the small amount of screen time he garners.
With Spielberg at the helm, the movie delights with its cinematography. Its score, composed by John Williams, is fantastic as is to be expected.
“The Post,” however, is quite bland. The first act takes its time introducing audiences to the main plot thread. By the time the film arrives at the main conflict, the decision to publish, audiences are so tired of the back-and-forth between Graham and Bradlee, that they have grown eager for the plot to finally get on with it.
The implications of the final decision reach towards the Supreme Court, and the great fault of the movie is that audiences see none of that. The film flashes forward straight through all of it, and the audience is left feeling very unsatisfied. Instead, the movie takes its time to drag the audience through the proceedings of constant dinner parties and board meetings, attempting to make the mundane worthwhile in a film about the rights of the free press going up against the presidency.
This all seems to stem from a racing production schedule. The film was completed in under a year, and one can only begin to imagine the constraints this put on the production. This serves to prove that a rushed Spielberg is not as great a director as a Spielberg with extra time and patience.
All in all, Hanks and Streep save the film from a monotonous, tepid pace that would have sunk a film with less talent. If the reader is a fan of Hanks and Streep, then “The Post” is worth their time. Catch this film when it presents itself in DVD or on streaming, but until then, find a different outing at the theater this month.