3 (out of 4)
Though The Post and its creators risk very little unlike the journalistic minds the film depicts, Spielberg’s latest may be his best this past decade, rivaling Lincoln alone for his best recent crack at American history.
The legendary director has put together yet another singularly masterful film (within just a few months of another Spielberg joint of course), primed for the critics and the masses in equal measure. But manipulating historical facts for the sake of a nicely structured film can't be taken so lightly, especially in the Trump era. Several folks at the New York Times have criticized the film for inflating the Washington Post's significance in breaking classified Vietnam war documents to the public. Ironic as it may be for a newspaper movie to play so fast and loose with the facts, The Post is much more about ethics than accuracy – the film nonetheless seeks to justify the right to publish rather than exactly what is published.
As cinema alone though, The Post makes Spotlight, 2015's Best Picture winner, look like a glorified TV movie. The prolific pairing of Spielberg and his longtime collaborator and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski works its usual wonders without a hiccup; The Post's camerawork is fluent and often breathtakingly cinematic.
Between the spy/revenge vibrations of 2005's Munich and the political drama of Lincoln, The Post lands in the middle as a sophisticated, tightly constructed thriller and easily one of the most entertaining journalism films to date. The 10-hour window for publishing once the WaPo gets their hands on more than half of the 7,000 plus pages of classified documents catalyzes plenty of back and forth on truthfulness and accountability as well as an effective ticking clock element.
The film's ensemble is also excellent from top to bottom as well. Tom Hanks was bested for Best Actor recognition but he goes through more than the motions as as the titular paper's grouchy Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee. Meryl Streep has only to star in a movie to receive attention from the Academy, and her performance here is no more than fine. The cast is remarkably well-suited for the material and Spielberg, like he always does, gets great takes and superb performances out of damn near every facet of the sizable supporting cast.
It may be the smoothest liberal handjob of the year's Oscar contenders, but at least The Post doesn't overtly draw parallels between adapted history and today's 1st Amendment politics, as much as the obvious and uncomfortably timely echoes are there. The hoopla of Watergate that followed the events of the film feels tacked on as an ending to The Post, but its a keen reminder that despite the trend of corruption and lies at the highest levels of government, reporters will always be there to loudly and diligently dig up the truth. Over time, the relevancy of this film will hopefully be in its expert craft and timeless moral compass more than its reflection of the era.
To keep it brief...