THE POST (2017)

I know it may not be totally appropriate but I consider myself to be a Journalist. Even though I do nothing remotely as risqué, important or demanding as a real journalist but I am fascinated by the thought of what they do and having the privilege to do film criticism for a distinguished local paper has only made me value the work of real Journalists even more. I have always been interested in films about the press and investigative journalism. I have watched films like “All The President’s Men”, “Spotlight”, “Zodiac” countless number of times and I truly believe that I will be watching these films a lot many more times in the future. “The Post” is a film that is very much in the same line and is right up my alley.

The film chronicles the story of the Washington Post as it tries to fight an almost autocratic Nixon regime to publish a series of stories based on a 4000 pages long document that vividly documents every US policy and decision, and for that matter, lack of it which led to the Vietnam crisis and loss of millions of American lives. The idea was to publish the classified documents and bring it to the breakfast tables of the citizen. However, The Attorney General and the Presidency go knee deep to stop the publication of the same. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.

The Post is at its immersive best when it is dealing with the matters of the press and the story at hand. It’s riveting to watch the actual inner-workings of a newspaper as the management and the publisher dwell on whether or not to publish a document that may very easily result in the paper being curbed. The way the story reaches the paper, the manner in which the editors sift through it and try to give it shape and finally let it out amidst the citizen is highly entertaining to watch. All of this and a lot more is all that is best in this film.

The performances by Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Katherine Graham as the first female publisher of a major American Paper is nothing short of brilliant. It is their performances that adds the panache and sense of believability to the whole film. There is a sequence towards the end of the film when Bradley and Katherine are in communion with a few other members of the paper and pondering upon whether or not to publish the expose. This short sequence kind of sums up the whole pressure and anxiety that these men are going through. They knew the consequences they were liable to face if they put a single wrong step and they also knew the importance of publishing the news at hand. This sequence beautifully brings out the drama of the moment.

I loved the climax too. There have been innumerable films that ended on a similar note with a grand victory but there was something very likable about this one. I guess it has something to do with the victory of the oppressed over the oppressors in this case. Just the pleasure to see the Nixon Presidency humiliated and belittled in front of the common working class citizen is priceless. I am a huge fan of “All The President’s Men” a film that dissects the Watergate Scandal based on the work of two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and “The Post” leaves off exactly where “All The President’s Men” takes off from. That was kind of nostalgic moment for me. That there was definitely a Spielberg touch.

Having said all that, I have some issues with the film and they are mostly centered around sequences and parts which doesn’t involve the basic story and dwells more into the subplot involving taking The Post public and Katherine fighting a bunch of people who believe that she hasn’t earned the right to be the owner of the paper and has, In fact, got it as a result of the death of her husband. She has to fight numerous times against this bias and she doesn’t always win.

I understand these plot points were critical to the drama as through these sequences, the audiences were made aware of what was at stake for The Post. These sequences showed us that the paper was on the verge of facing a walkout from the investor if they ran the piece on the scandal. In addition to that, a lot of time is also spent on exploring the mental state of Katherine who isn’t exactly a strong leader to start with and it is given a lot of time and importance.

This is where the film falters a bit and gets somewhat tedious. Truly there were atleast two sequences where I wanted to fast forward and get to the interesting bits. These sequences also hamper the speed and flow of the film. Another issue with these sequences is that they mostly happen in the first half and hence cling together as one large portion that just feels as if it won’t end. Apart from setting up the stakes which would assume importance towards the end, these sequences don’t add anything to the film. That is actually a polite way of saying that we could have easily done away with these sequences and a maestro of Spielberg’s prowess could have done better.

“The Post” also doesn’t have the kind of grip that a “Zodiac” or an “All the President’s Men” had. Now that’s not a fault on the part of the director. The content that he is dealing with here is simply not that gripping. It can be looked at as one-fourth of what the afore-mentioned films had to offer in terms of intrigue and material and hence it might not be much of a pull for many.

Having said all that, “The Post” is still a very watchable film. It has the Spielberg regular at the top of his game. The light-washed visuals give us the exact Spielberg-y feel that we’ve got used to. The sweeping Cinematography, the rousing background score, and talkative characters all add up to give you that royale Spielberg treatment even though it’s not one of his best. It may not be an instant classic but still has enough going in its favor to merit a view or two.

Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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