‘The Post’ an Oscar shoe-in

Written By Mick Stinelli, Co-A&E Editor

“The Post” begins with the acquiring of the Pentagon Papers, top-secret government documents detailing the United States’ continued failure in Vietnam. Once the findings in these documents are published by The New York Times, a federal court bars the paper from publishing any more info from the leak. This leaves The Washington Post with the decision of whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers.

There is one nagging question that bothered me throughout my viewing of “The Post”: why did Spielberg decide to do a story on the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, rather than a movie about the collection of the Pentagon Papers? The reporting on the stolen documents is treated as a subplot of “The Post,” with the focus of the movie on publisher Katharine Graham (Streep) deciding on whether The Post should run the story.

Streep’s performance as a woman in a man’s world is engrossing. She gives Graham several subtle tics and nuances that bring the character to life. Hanks, meanwhile, makes some questionable choices with his performance of editor Ben Bradlee. His on-camera charisma is undeniable, but his on-and-off Boston accent can be a bit distracting. Even when she is paired with Hanks, Streep effortlessly steals the show.

The film, of course, is pristinely directed. Spielberg is in his element with a talented cast that includes Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie, and Bob Odenkirk. The scenes where the paper is printing are particularly stunning. Spielberg captures the beauty of linotype and other analog technologies in a time where such machines are just about extinct.

There are several scenes where the camera peeks into the oval office. From afar, we see President Richard Nixon on the phone, seething with rage. as the press reveals more and more government secrets. The decision to use actual audio recordings of Nixon is much more effective than having an actor don a growl and a prosthetic nose. Amidst what seems like fabricated tension to add to the film’s suspense, we get a look at the real danger these journalists were in.

“The Post” is an Oscar voter’s dream come true. It is a film centered on performances, and performances from heavyweights like Hanks and Streep, no less. It is also unapologetically (and unavoidably) political. Spielberg plays with themes of misogyny, freedom of the press and a government corruption.

There are certain things that “The Post” does very well. Graham’s character arc provides the film’s most satisfying moment, and just about every performance in the movie is spellbinding. However, the film stumbles in other areas: the pacing is choppy, the score is basically nonexistent and some performances shine brighter than others. David Cross is notably out of his league, and seems to only be in the movie because he and Odenkirk worked together on “Mr. Show with Bob and David.” While Odenkirk has since had years of dramatic acting under his belt with “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” Cross has been in three “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films. His performance isn’t awful, but it is distracting to see him try to keep up with the rest of the cast.

The message that Spielberg is trying to send with “The Post” is as clear as a headline. It’s an ambitious feat that is done with the tact and grace that could only come from Hollywood’s most beloved storyteller.