Inspired by real events, The Post follows the investigation by the Washington Post into the Pentagon Papers - a cache of reports and memos concerning America's disastrous involvement in Vietnam - and the impact it had on the paper itself, led by Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female newspaper publisher in American history, and veteran editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks).
The problem - if you can call it that - about making a film about courage in the face of a government run by a despot is that when the reality is similar, it looks like it's riding on the back of it. There's no denying that The Post and its theme of journalistic bravery in the face of tyrannical authority is absolutely prescient. However, what's interesting about The Post is that it doesn't lean into it all that often. In fact, there's only one notable line from Streep that could be construed as a nod to the current political landscape in America, but really what the film captures is the excitement and the thrill of chasing a story such as this - and more pointedly, the ramifications of reporting on it.
From the opening scene, it's clear that this film rests not just on Spielberg's vision, but on the performances of Hanks and Streep and both are able to comfortably sell them without it becoming dramatic and showy. Instead, there's a nuanced approach to their characters and in the hands of capable, competent actors, it becomes something much more - particularly for Streep. Giving her best performance in years, every single scene she takes part in allows for her character to develop before our very eyes with a considered, layered approach. The first time we see Streep and Hanks, he snaps at her for interfering in the paper's content. By the end of the film, we see her confidently stride through a crowd of female protesters - and the shift between these two performances is done so subtly and gracefully that it's breathtaking when you realise it. Meanwhile, Hanks serves as the exposition engine of the film and ably weaves the strands together so that it never becomes tangled up in specific details or the like. When he needs to find out what the rival New York Times are up to, he throws some cash at an intern and tells him to infiltrate their office; all done in a gruff, direct bit of dialogue.
In comparison to something like Lincoln or Munich, Spielberg's direction is much lighter in tone and comes with a brightness and alacrity to it that puts it more in line with Catch Me If You Can or Minority Report. The editing is finely tuned to keep it all in check without it spilling over for longer than it needs. Where the film falters is that there's a couple of nudges in the screenplay that feel far too idealistic for a film that's supposed to be about the grime in politics. When you look at All The President's Men and how it was far more economical with its dialogue, here we're given West Wing-style speeches every so often that push out scenes far more than needed - and it's no surprise either that co-writer Josh Singer cut his teeth on that show. Moreover, Nixon is only viewed from outside The White House and with the use of real recordings, cursing into a phone about damaging leaks - not a million miles away from the current occupant.