I try to always be open and up-front about it when I’m wrong. Well, The Post proved me wrong about Steven Spielberg. After Lincoln & Bridge of Spies, both films I liked quite a bit, I speculated that Spielberg had entered a more mature phase of his career where he was simply a quieter, more assured filmmaker making films that were more methodical and precise than energetic and passionate. Both Lincoln & Bridge of Spies were films that took themselves very slowly with no real attention paid to keeping an audience’s attention through anything but detailed craftsmanship. There was always The BFG, a film that had a certain spark of energy, but really, what was The BFG actually besides a disaster? But when I argued that Spielberg would never again make a movie with real energy and drive, I was wrong. Because The Post is that movie that I never thought he would make again, a movie with real passion and tension and a narrative thrust that rarely flags. The story is a simple one; a leak of classified documents, a newspaper trying to prove itself, a battle for the First Amendment. It’s obvious why Spielberg wanted to tell this story and why he wanted to tell it, even more specifically, right now in this moment in American history. The script isn’t exactly a marvel, but it goes through its paces with a minimum of nonsense; it leans into its themes, but in today’s climate, we forgive that. The cast elevates the script immensely. Streep and Hanks are great individually and also together. Bob Odenkirk is wonderful in a supporting role and Matthew Rhys is particularly good as Daniel Ellsberg. As to the rest of the ensemble, well, what do you say to this: Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, Pat Healy, David Cross, Michael Stuhlbarg, Zack Woods. You’d have to actively try, I think, to get an ensemble like that to misstep in terms of performances and they’re all absolutely pitch perfect. It isn’t that all of them get huge moments or anything, but when that group is working, they make the most of small moments and no one drops a clunker. Spielberg’s direction shows his passion. It’s the most suspenseful film he’s released in ages and his best as well. Yes, it may be bad history; yes, it throws subtlety out the window; yes, it’s a romanticized vision of journalism. But it’s thrilling filmmaking and a breathless good time at the movies. I thought they didn’t make them like this anymore; well, anyway, I thought Spielberg didn’t. Thanks for proving me wrong. 4 stars.
tl;dr – incredible ensemble and high energy direction elevate this standard story to the level of grand entertainment; it’s not subtle, but it lands. 4 stars.