In 2018, the American public craves a film that rebels against the corruption of the Trump Administration and its repeated attacks on both the press and free speech. Enter Steven Spielberg’s newest film, “The Post,” with a plot centered on the true story of The Washington Post publishing the Pentagon Papers. With a plot supposedly focused on this successful attempt to expose the lies of the U.S. Government during the Vietnam war, “The Post” should champion the villainized press. Instead, Spielberg’s film fails not only as an act of resistance against the American government, but also as a work of art itself.
While Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) makes some mention of the loss of U.S. soldiers, “The Post” omits the massive atrocities that the United States committed against the Vietnamese people. This incomplete portrayal of the Vietnam War disqualifies the film from ever being considered a form of rebellion against the corruption of the U.S. government.
The film’s script fails to engage the audience emotionally. One would expect a film about the Pentagon Papers to use the body count of the Vietnam War and subsequent lies of the U.S. government that prolonged the war as the film's emotional core. Instead, “The Post” shallowly focuses on the story of Graham risking the ownership of The Washington Post and her personal relationships with Washington officials. By neglecting to fully critique the Vietnam War, the film does not portray the full significance of the press’s role in the Pentagon Papers, thus making the audience lose sight of why freedom of the press is needed in the first place.
Graham’s bravery in publishing the Pentagon Papers is shown in tedious scenes taking place in boardrooms, where bland investors question the profitability of The Washington Post, or even duller scenes where Graham must cope with betraying her war criminal friends involved in the Papers. These friends include people like Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), who was heavily involved in lying to the American people in order to prolong the war. Graham herself is not even a compelling character; she is a multi-millionaire terrified of becoming just a simple millionaire. By centering the story around Graham, “The Post” becomes a film in which the lies of the government during the Vietnam War serve as background for the story of an absurdly wealthy mogul risking a fraction of her fortune.
The immense amount of talent behind “The Post” only magnifies its failure. Most notably, of course, is Spielberg: a director whose mere involvement with a project thrusts it into the national spotlight. While Spielberg’s celebrity draws a noteworthy cast — including Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Sarah Paulson, and Michael Stuhlbarg — none of the actors were able to save the deeply flawed material.
Despite Spielberg’s prestige, this film marks the encroaching decline of his legendary career. In fact, the film’s cinematography parallels my own unabashed disinterest. Its monotony is epitomized in endless shareholder meetings where the camera seemingly falls asleep filming closeups of men explaining The Washington Post’s probability numbers.
Ultimately, “The Post” is a shallow and rushed film, masquerading as important with the claim of good intentions. There is need for a film that resists the past and present corruption of the U.S. government and displays the power of the free press. “The Post” is not this film. Instead, I recommend rewatching “All The President's Men.”