A journalism drama in the age of President Trump was bound to strike a chord, but film critics coming out of early screenings for Steven Spielberg’s The Post are calling it one of the most important films of the year — though, not necessarily the best.
In what one critic called “the best Spielberg movie since Munich,” the director shines a spotlight on a story from 1971 when the free press was demonized by a sitting U.S. president: The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) team up to catch up to The New York Times with the reveal of The Pentagon Papers, a document comprised of thousands of pages about U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
If Trump claiming mainstream media to be the “enemy of the American people” sounds familiar, it’s because of Richard Nixon, who served as president during this time of The Pentagon Papers and said something similar.
“[The Post] is best of all a vital and timely reminder that a free press must remain free, and that the burden to protect that freedom belongs to everyone,” L.A. Times writer Jen Yamato tweeted amid a flurry of critical reactions on social media late Monday night.
Others praised the performances of Streep (“her best in years”) and Hanks (he “rips his role to shreds”), along with a shoutout to Bob Odenkirk. But while The Post proved to be surprisingly “feminist” and shot like “Robert Zemeckis on a coke bender,” according to some, many agree this likely Oscar contender isn’t the best film they’ve seen this year.
“[The Post], as everyone else is saying, is dynamite,” Jordan Hoffman writes. “As good as [The Paper]? As good as [Lincoln]? I dunno. Probably.”
The A.V. Club‘s A.A. Dowd adds, “Can’t entirely put my finger on why [The Post] left me a little cold. I think maybe it’s that this story, while brimming with topical import, is tougher to dramatize than the last two true tales that Spielberg tackled.”
The Post, opening in theaters on Dec. 22, also features Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bradley Whitford, and Zach Woods.