Wednesday, December 6, 2017
OSCAR WATCH: The Post
"Quality drives profitability." This is the mantra that fuels the narrative of "The Post" and its courageous protagonists. But one could also see it as an indirect humble brag from its director Steven Spielberg. In a career spanning several decades, he has become a household name through a reputation for producing quality entertainment. With his latest effort "The Post", he adds another triumph to his lauded filmography, delivering a thrilling period drama that is painfully relevant to our modern times.
"The Post" is set in the early 1970s, a time when American citizens were becoming increasingly concerned about the nation's involvement in the Vietnam war. As it became clear that it was a waste of precious human lives and resources, the press played a central role in giving voice to these frustrations. One of those major players was The Washington Post. Lead by publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), The Post was known for its integrity and commitment to reporting the facts, no matter how harsh. Their biggest challenge was soon to come however, as they are made aware of secret cover-up called The Pentagon Papers. Acquired from a whistle-blower named Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), this shocking information detailed years of deception by the government and was first communicated to rival newspaper The New York Times. But when the government successfully silences them from proceeding further, The Washington Post is left to make a history-making decision. Do they risk their careers and freedom in order to do the right thing?
As history will tell us, The Washington Post did eventually go to print with this news. But the journey to get there was understandably fraught with fear and intimidation. And this is before even taking into account the extensive research and legal acrobatics required to find loopholes to avoid possible prosecution for treason.
In the hands of Steven Spielberg however, this procedural becomes as exciting as any of his crowd-pleasing blockbusters. Indeed, with the aid of a typically stirring score by John Williams, "The Post" is a Spielberg movie through and through. The story moves at invigorating pace, with a palpable energy that exudes from Janusz Kaminski's agile cinematography and the sharp editing.
But the most riveting aspect is the treat of watching a pair of thespians at the height of the powers. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep lend the film effortless gravitas with their graceful work here, which is sure to put them in contention for Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars. Through their respective character arcs, Liz Hannah and Josh Singer beautifully explores the personal dilemmas that were intimately linked to their ultimate decision. Streep's Graham is especially compelling as a woman who broke a glass ceiling as the first female publisher of a major American newspaper. Faced with the possible ruination of the legacy of a company inherited from her father and late husband, her internal struggle is brilliantly conveyed. It's easily one of Streep's most skillful performances. And she has such terrific chemistry with Hanks that it makes you wonder why it took so long for these icons of American cinema to share the screen.
Indeed, Hanks and Streep do the roles justice. At a time when journalism is under threat by "fake news" and "post-truth politics," their story is incredibly inspiring. And "The Post" emphatically captures what makes the profession so rewarding, as it captures the thrill of the scoop, the nerve-wracking pressure of deadlines, the excitement of competitive rivalries and the power of teamwork. It's simply sensational. And the Academy now has another major contender to consider in many categories, including Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and of course, Best Picture.