Cinematic Releases: The Post (2018) - Reviewed

Set in the early 1970’s, The Post depicts a dramatized version of the true events leading to the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, and thus The Washington Post’s ascension to national prominence, along with its rival, The New York Times. With many major players involved, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as headliners, and Steven Spielberg at the helm, The Post seems positioned to be a smash hit. The Post misses the mark in being truly excellent, however, because the dramatic beats aren’t dramatic enough, and the lack of an epilogue for this “true-to-life” story leaves the audience wanting more. 

The movie starts with Daniel Ellsberg, a State Department military analyst witnessing the whitewashing of the failing American involvement in the Vietnam War. The results of his report are effectively negated by defense secretary Robert McNamara, who, for purposes of saving political face, declares the U.S. involvements in Vietnam a success, despite most other signs pointing to the opposite. In a hefty act of civil disobedience, Ellsberg copies the report and leaks it to The New York Times, who in turn are prevented from publishing via a court injunction. 

The story then pivots to Ben Bradlee, portrayed by Tom Hanks, who is rabidly trying to get in on this reporting now that The New York Times is barred from publishing. One of the main obstacles to his publishing, is the owner of the paper, Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), who is still feeling out her role as the head decision-maker after her husband, Phil Graham, previous head of the paper, committed suicide.

Perhaps the most glaring flaw to this movie is that it can’t seem to decide if the movie is about the paper, hence the title, The Post, or if it’s about the relationship between Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham. If the story were to have been about the paper, more context before and after these events would have been helpful. If this story were to have been about the relationship between Bradlee and Graham, more conflict between the two would’ve been helpful. 

In the end, we are left with a movie that depicts some true, important events, not only about the Vietnam War and our government, but about how players in a “free press” society step up to the plate. Unfortunately, this docudrama lacks a sufficient amount of “drama” to be as excellent as the assets put into it. 

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-Blake Pynnonen