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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look: 40%
Just Average53.33%
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2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Post, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A sedate prequel to 'All the President's Men.'"
3 stars

It seems unlikely, but "The Post" marks the first time Steven Spielberg has put the Vietnam War on the screen.

Granted, it’s only for the first few minutes, and I can’t really forgive his easy falling back on Creedence Clearwater Revival for the song choice (Creedence is generally the lazy director’s signifier for ‘Nam). But the PG-13 jungle chaos Spielberg stages right at the start helps to establish why the saturnine and disaffected Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) risks everything to leak sensitive government documents to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and seventeen other newspapers — documents that show the government knew we couldn’t win the war.

The Post isn’t really about Ellsberg, whose story was told in a cable movie from 1993, The Pentagon Papers, starring James Spader. No, the story here is about chasing a story. Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) has taken over as publisher of the Post from her husband, who committed suicide eight years prior; she feels insecure in the role, the paper is bleeding money, and now would seem the worst time to run a bombshell story that will, at the very least, antagonize the Nixon administration. But the story is more or less dropped into a Post reporter’s lap, and the savvy editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) lunges for it. Various lawyers and bean-counters advise Ben and Katharine to back off. They won’t.

The problem is, there’s not much inner conflict. Every so often there’s a line of dialogue about how very, very foolish the paper would be, especially after going public at a loss, to pursue its line of inquiry. This sort of scene generally ends with Ben or Katharine nodding gravely and saying something like “Okay. We’re going with it anyway.” Spielberg doesn’t put much stress on their fear, or on anything else, really. The filmmaking is very mild, classical at times, shot in long takes of two people sitting and talking. Despite that, The Post does move along; it comes in at a brisk hour and fifty-six minutes, which for Spielberg these days is concise. It’s smooth work from an old master (despite clunkers like a bad continuity gaffe involving someone’s cigarette).

The smoothness is meant to help the message go down — that a free press is crucial for an informed public, that in the words of the Supreme Court it’s there for the governed, not the governors. Under the current leadership, which is fond of discounting the media with squawks of “fake news,” we are meant to find that message more poignantly urgent than ever. But — how to put it gently? — those who might most benefit from such a message aren’t likely to go see The Post, or to come away from it changed if they do go. It is possibly, then, a note of go-get-‘em support to the beleaguered and splintered media of the moment. If they could take a demon off the throne, the movie whispers to the modern Bradlees and Grahams, so can you.

Spielberg, though, doesn’t bring much passion to it, and he seems to encourage his actors, sharp but tremulous Streep and amiably growling Hanks, to underplay to match his apparent energy level. Years from now, away from its current relevance, The Post will play like a sedate prequel to All the President’s Men — here’s how the heroic paper rose from its underdog status to set the table for its later, larger triumph. I don’t think the seeming lack of engagement on Spielberg’s part is due to his indifference to the subject, but maybe to the simple, complexity-free way it’s presented (by scripters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, the latter of whom wrote Spotlight, a better movie about a paper going after the big fish). The Post is bland and, if I’m not mistaken, vaguely dispirited, as if Spielberg knew the media it depicts has become a shadow of itself, as have the media’s consumers.

Newspaper-making even in its full metal physical details — the clacking typewriters, the gleaming printing plates — had more weight, more substance, in the old days.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=31253&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/17/18 18:51:05
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User Comments

10/11/18 Anne needed more passion, too sanitized! 3 stars
1/21/18 Jack Terrific film. One of the best movies of the year. By far. 5 stars
1/18/18 Nancy N It was OK. Streep chewed a LOT of scenery, IMHO. 3 stars
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  22-Dec-2017 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Apr-2018

  19-Jan-2018 (12A)

  22-Dec-2017 (M)
  DVD: 17-Apr-2018

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