Title: The Post
Country: USA, UK
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Liz Hannah, Josh Singer
Music: John Williams
Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski
Michael Cyril Creighton
“She did it again!”, racking up Oscar nominations (her 21st) until she will finally get her fourth golden statuette, Meryl Streep sets an insuperable barrier for her fellow screen thespians to surmount, a priori, the most possible future emulator are Aussie Cate Blanchett and Brit Kate Winslet (both with 7 nominations under their belts so far), and stateside, 4-times nominee Jennifer Lawrence has a faint chance considering her relative youth and 5-times nominee Amy Adams comes as a long shot if her momentum catches up.
THE POST, upholds the venerable tradition from former Oscar-winners like ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN (1976) (to which the film can be deemed as a prequel) and the recent BEST PICTURE champ SPOTLIGHT (2015), is a rousing true-story in praise of the integrity of journalism, the hallowed beacon and guardian of USA’s democracy and a cardinal token of liberty which the country fervently promulgates. The time is 1971, Streep plays Katharine Graham, the owner and publisher of Washington Post, has to make a crucial call of whether or not the Post should publish the notorious Pentagon papers before a court injunction comes into effect, banning divulging classified governmental dossiers relative to the truth about Vietnam Wars, and comes in for its ramifications from the Nixon-resided White House.
Spielberg marshals a briskly intelligible narrative arc which shows its conscientious concern with a global audience in its heart, the progression is put into effectual momentum on the strength of its gliding choreography of camera and concise editing choices (e.g. in the heightened crunch when Katharine negotiates with various parties on the phone) among others, and what strikes as palpably mesmerizing is Spielberg’s felicitous blocking of his often chock-a-block ensemble, whether they are in the Post’s office or Katharine’s plush home where dinner or party is organized, the transmission of immediacy, agency and efficacy is conduced with winning panache (if laced with several belabored snippets, say the stilted inclusion of a dark-skinned female assistant getting a word in edgewise with Katharine outside the courtroom).
The characterization of its dramatis personae, save the obvious wow factor of its female lead, is functional and one-faceted, especially the gung-ho journalists, almost run to boilerplate, it lacks the clinical poise which distinguishes SPOTLIGHT from its ilk, as great as Tom Hanks and as eloquently as his portrayal of editor in chief Ben Bradlee engages us (the same character won an Oscar for Jason Robards in ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN), he doesn’t live up to his co-star’s caliber due to the film’s surface-scratching practicality. And among the subservient roles, Bob Odenkirk’s assistant editor Ben Bagdikian is given some special treatment to ruminate during the on-going hubbub but it is Tracy Letts, who emits such humility and allegiance in his quiet role as Fritz Beebe, the chairman of the Post, that appears as the unsung hero; whereas two female characters are vouchsafed with message-delivering, Sarah Paulson as Ben’s wife, Antoinette, self-consciously illuminates Katharine’s bravery to her self-vaunting hubby, and through the mouth of reporter Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon), THE POST enunciates its righteous tenet “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors”, rams home the allusion between Nixon and Trump with a slam-dunk bang.
For all intents and purposes, Streep’s performance is roundly stricture-free, her Katharine is a fish out of water in a men’s clique from whom she is perpetually disparaged and patronized (even from Ben), feels enfeebled by the potential catastrophe which would throw away her dead father and husband’s entire legacy, Streep doesn’t apply hyperbole to underscore Katharine’s fix, instead, she weaves through it with almost understated gestures until her climatic, counter-intuitive (a feature more predisposed to the female sex) decision, to hit the bull’s eye with its women-empowering reverberation, after all, on that matter, everyone can only dance to her tunes. All in all, Streep’s award-worthy transcendence is something no one can take away from this opportune bio-pic tossed off swiftly under the aegis of Mr. Spielberg’s reassuring confidence.
referential points: Tom McCarthy’s SPOTLIGHT (2015, 8.3/10); Alan J. Pakula’s ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN (1976, 8.3/10).