The Post Early Reviews: Spielberg Delivers Solid Oscar Bait

The first reviews for Steven Spielberg's The Post praise the film for its important and all too timely message, while at the same time acknowledging that it's a very heavy handed "Oscar Bait" movie. The Post tells the true story of how, in the early 1970s, The Washington Post's Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) sought to shine a light on the truth about the Vietnam War by publishing the Pentagon Papers - a collection of documents containing government secrets that had been kept under lock and key for decades.

Early social media reactions to The Post from journalists were largely positive and the movie itself was even dubbed the Best Film of 2017 by the National Board of Review last week. The film is expected to pick up even more accolades over the months ahead, including Oscar nominations for its performances, director, and potentially even Best Picture. Spielberg's last two historical docudramas (Lincoln and Bridge of Spies) were both nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and it seems like The Post is destined to follow suit, based on the initial wave of critic responses.

Related: Lady Bird & Get Out Recognized by 2017 NYFCC Awards

While the overall critical response to The Post could be fairly summarized as positive thus far, most of the reviews also include an important caveat - namely, that Spielberg's ode to journalism is an extremely relevant film in 2017, but not necessarily a "great" one on its own terms. For more insight on the matter, feel free to read the following excerpts from some of The Post reviews published thus far. (You can also click on the corresponding links to check out the full reviews.)

The ensemble cast of The Post

Alonso Duralde - The Wrap

While the screenplay by Liz Hannah (“Guidance”) and Josh Singer (“Spotlight”) doesn’t always slip in necessary exposition in the most graceful way, it nonetheless offers suspense and rich characterizations to an all too timely examination of the importance of a free press and of the constant obligation to speak truth to power.

Owen Gleiberman - Variety

Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” throttles along in a pleasurably bustling, down-to-the-timely-minute way. It’s a heady, jam-packed docudrama that, with confidence and great filmmaking verve (though not what you’d call an excess of nuance), tells a vital American story of history, journalism, politics, and the way those things came together over a couple of fateful weeks in the summer of 1971.

Kristy Puchko - Pajiba

It’s good stuff. You’ll watch The Post and think of movies like All The President’s Men, The Paper and Network. And then maybe you’ll realize those movies are all decades old. And that maybe why you’re thinking of them is because this movie feels like it could be decades old. It’s a good, reliable drama. It’s also safe, predictable Oscar bait with nothing new to say.

Tom Hanks in The Post

Matt Goldberg - Collider

[The Post] isn’t particularly revelatory or game-changing, but it’s a group of artists all reminding us why they’re among the best in the business, and all working towards a powerful story about the importance of journalism and the continued struggles of women in the workplace. It’s a movie set in 1971 that’s very much about 2017, and Spielberg eloquently speaks to our current moment even if sometimes the words are incredibly on the nose.

Todd McCarthy - THR

An unofficial prequel to All the President's Men 41 years after the fact, The Post stirringly dramatizes the tale of how The Washington Post and its equivocating owner rose to the occasion by publishing the Pentagon Papers in June of 1971. Punchy and quick-pulsed, it's a fine example of that now-rare species, the big-city newspaper melodrama.

Chris Nashawaty - EW

The beauty of Streep’s performance (and it’s one of her best in years) is how she lets you see her grow into the responsibility of her position. She elevates The Post from being a First Amendment story to a feminist one, too. Spielberg makes these crucial days in American history easy to follow. But if you look at The Post next to something like All the President’s Men, you see the difference between having a story passively explained to you and actively helping to untangle it.

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in The Post

As most every review for The Post acknowledges, the film is clearly designed to serve as a strong rebuttal to U.S. president Donald Trump's continuous attacks against the free media and his consistent dismissal of any negative reports about his administration as being "Fake News". It sounds as though Spielberg and his screenwriters Liz Hannah (who wrote the original spec script) and Josh Singer (Spotlight) aren't subtle about making their point either, when it comes to drawing parallels between 2017 and The Post's version of 1971 - from the blatant sexism in the workplace to the "war" between then-president Richard Nixon and the free press.

On the whole, it sounds as though The Post is a fine piece of filmmaking by Spielberg and his frequent collaborators (including, of course, composer John Williams), if also one that feels a bit like a homework assignment. Streep in particular is earning top marks for her performance in the film, suggesting that she will almost certainly wind up adding yet another Oscar nomination to her massive collection of Academy Award nods (and three wins to date). Hanks appears to be less of a surefire bet for a Best Actor Oscar nod based on the reviews so far, but some of the film's supporting players - especially Better Call Saul's Bob Odenkirk - seem like strong candidates for a Best Supporting Actor or Actress nod.

The Post itself isn't generating strong enough buzz right now to claim Best Picture frontrunner status, especially when compared to the glowing receptions for films like Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name, Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, and Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water. Nevertheless, it sounds like Spielberg's latest is one worth checking out on the big screen, in addition to being a proper awards seasons contender to watch for.

MORE: Call Me By Your Name Deserves the Oscar Hype

Source: Various [see the above links]

Key Release Dates
  • The Post (2017) release date: Dec 22, 2017
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