When you combine the talent of Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks film fans will typically sit up and take notice. I certainly took notice – Spielberg is one Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers and is responsible for some of the most memorable films of all time. He lovingly includes familiar family themes so that viewers of all ages can see his work and find value in it. He commands only the best in front of and behind the camera and, with Streep and Hanks, he’s created a highly relevant film. The Post, which is based on actual events surrounding the infamous Pentagon Papers, is a rousing re-enactment whose reigning themes of freedom of speech and providing the truth adds substance and value to the press and adversarial journalism.

For obvious reasons The Post is a great companion piece to the 2015 release Spotlight. Spotlight was a no frills drama – reporters worked day and night, following the tiniest of leads in order to break the controversial story of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Spielberg shifts the focus with his latest – the story of how the United States government lied about events surrounding military involvement in Vietnam and secretly broke laws and treaties in the process helped highlight the hot and cold relationship between the press and the White House. Spielberg, with a script written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (who, not coincidentally, also co-wrote Spotlight), emphasizes courage, but not the type one would see on the battlefield. The Post seeks the truth for all, because when the Washington Post’s soft-spoken publisher Kay Graham (Streep) and tough editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) come across the secrets the government buried, they are burdened with exposing those secrets at the risk of jail time and bankrupting the paper.

The Post focuses on the big picture, whereas Spotlight is akin to a procedural about how a major story comes together. Knowing that, The Post is also timely – today’s press is a major enemy of our current president, and the term “fake news” is part of our everyday vernacular. Spielberg, Hanks and Streep let audiences know that this isn’t an isolated incident – past Presidents have been at odds with the press because truths were withheld from the American people. I think, though, the difference is today’s lies come more often.

Anyways, besides The Post being hailed as an important film, let’s focus on that fact that it’s a good one. Spielberg is his typical awesome self in the director’s chair - the most impressive thing being him leading the quick turnaround time. Principal photography began on May 30, 2017. By early November Spielberg finished the film’s final cut. He felt this was an important story to tell, and halted production of another project he was working on to get this made. Nearly every minute of the 116-minute feature felt complete, minus the prologue, which had a handful of scenes take place in Vietnam (it looked very green screen). Spielberg put all of his attention and effort into this, similar to the passion he put into the Oscar winner Schindler’s List. But to go from concept to completed film in about 10 months is impressive, outstanding even, considering how good this is. Kudos to Spielberg – this is his best work in years and likely his most important feature since Saving Private Ryan.

Of course, Spielberg’s vision is helped immensely by his cast. Hanks is a scruffy, tough-talking editor - almost a trope. But his charm shines brightly and viewers can’t help but like his passion and drive. If anything, his Ben Bradlee is a caricature of Spielberg – he wants everyone to know the truth because they deserve it. The Post’s anchor is Streep, with her reticent turn. Kay is doubtful and unconfident, and because the Washington Post is her family’s legacy there’s plenty of pressure to run her family’s company well. The Pentagon papers tested her resolve, but it was a necessary stress which allowed her to grow quickly in a short time. From a storytelling perspective, Kay has the film’s biggest story arc and it's more believable thanks to Streep’s performance.

Not lost in the proceedings is the sexism that existed (and still exists) in the workplace. Kay is almost always the only woman, and the men surrounding her give her little respect because she’s a woman. That contributes to Kay’s reserved persona, but it’s also why her metamorphosis is more profound. With this theme lingering throughout, Spielberg is able to put the spotlight on two major issues which currently dominate our country’s headlines.

Other performers worth mentioning are small, yet essential turns from Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Tracy Letts (Lady Bird), Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys (The Americans) and Sarah Paulson. The cast is full of impressive character actors, and it’s obvious they all shared Spielberg’s passion. They all shine when given the chance and make The Post that much better.

The Post, like Darkest Hour, relies on words instead of actions to create drama. The fact that both films are based on actual events should serve as a reminder that things can be accomplished simply by being brave enough to say something. As people, it’s important for us to point out wrongs so that the wheels of change can turn. We cannot allow lying and hiding truths to remain the norm. That’s Spielberg’s message, so let’s help him spread that message by being truthful.

4.5 stars out of 5

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