“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” –The Post
Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep? Put them together, and of course the Oscar buzz is flying. The world is clamoring to see this film.
Centered around The Washington Post’s first woman publisher Kathy Graham (Streep), and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), The Post follows their history-making decision regarding what to do in the wake of attaining the Pentagon Papers. The theme of “to publish or not to publish” sits at the heart of this film and creates a tension that humbles and inspires.
As an editor of a newspaper, of course any movie about journalism piques my interest and captures my heart. The quintessential cuts of newspapers in production, the montage of the newsroom and the back and forth banter provide all of the elements that make any journalism junky pine for the 20th Century newspaper aesthetic.
With Oscars season and nominations fast approaching, many may remember Spotlight’s 2016 win of Best Picture. Also focusing on a team of journalists grappling with a big story and big responsibility, Spotlight might seem like a precursor for another newspaper movie to steal the show. Personally, I do not believe this to be the case.
While highlighting a key event in an American history (and doing so at a time in which the media is under constant scrutiny and fire, with First Amendment rights being constantly in discussion), The Post lacks in characters to really attach to. Despite Streep and Hanks’ impressive performances, their characters fall flat and even feel sanitized for the sake of likability.
Kathy Graham is portrayed as a feminist icon, a woman in a man’s world, yet her screen time feels surprisingly low for the value we are meant to place in her.
That aside, this is a movie that is needed. That is relevant. That is powerful. As a journalist, it feels like an act of solidarity; the duty of journalists is to the truth, is to the country’s people, not to its image or its institutions. While Spotlight felt current because of its setting (with its events taking place in 2001), The Post hits hard because the fight is still so dutifully being fought. At times it feels closer to home because that fight itself is. And that is both disheartening and empowering.
Many have argued that The Post is Spielberg’s best work, and while it may not be the best movie of the year, it does feel like the most important.