By Brad Haynes
★★1/2 out of ★★★★
In 1976, hot on the heels of the Watergate scandal, All The President’s Men burst into theaters and basically created a new film genre, the investigative journalism thriller.
Now, over 40 years later, Steven Spielberg has set his sights on exploring another area of investigative journalism that had basically been overshadowed by Watergate…the Pentagon Papers. The Post also explores the competition between The New York Times and The Washington Post to get the classified story of the losing Vietnam battle out to the public.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty apparent right from the start why Watergate and its star investigative journalists found their way on screen such a long time earlier. It was a far more interesting story.
The story that Spielberg unfolds is not so much the story of Daneil Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) and the Pentagon Papers, but more the story of the Washington Post and the Post’s newly appointed head honcho Katherine Graham (Merly Streep) grappling with moral decisions on whether or not to publish the story, along with competing with The New York Times to get the story out first.
Also at the center of the story is Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) who along with Graham struggles with making the right decision for the story.
In All The President’s Men, director Alan J. Pakula ramped up the paranoia level to high. Spielberg never really gets there, and knowing the outcome of the Nixon presidency, it’s hard to feel any real threat coming from the government towards the journalists. The current political/journalistic battleground actually seems much more threatening.
As the woman who recently lost her husband to suicide, and is now head of the family business, The Washington Post, Streep delivers a strong performance, but it’s not that much different than other powerful, yet conflicted, women she has portrayed in the past.
The same with Hanks. It’s a sturdy performance, but nothing that stands out as a career best for him.
Newspaper folk may hope that The Post puts their currently languishing profession front and center and the local newspaper will see a renewed resurgence in subscribers. That’s unlikely to happen.
The Good: At times gripping, the movie definitely benefits from Spielberg’s expertise at storytelling and a top notch cast.
The Bad: The whole concept of the Washington Post in a race to get a story to the public before the New York Times can just isn’t that compelling, unless you’re a newspaper person.
Final Word: Overall strong performances make The Post worth a look, but the film has nothing on the granddaddy of journalistic thrillers, All The President’s Men.
Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Running Time: 1 hr 56 minutes
Rated PG-13 for language and brief war violence.