The Post ★★★

A pretty good example of a director and a screenwriter working at cross-purposes. The screenplay is clearly about the story of Katharine Graham, who stewarded The Washington Post through the Pentagon Papers and later Watergate, transforming it from a regional newspaper to a globally respect news organization. That is the arc that screenwriter Liz Hannah is clearly interested in here—how Graham overcame the institutional patriarchy that tried to suppress her at every juncture. But Spielberg is interested in a polemic about the importance of the Fourth Estate, and works madly to rouse our emotions over the rightness of The Washington Post’s pursuit and publication of the Pentagon Papers. It’s a noble cause, but along the way he brings his usual ham-fisted, overly explanatory impulses to bear. As a result there isn’t a single scene that feels anything less than manipulative, even if the manipulation is more potent than most journeyman directors can muster. It helps too that Hanks and Streep do so much to elevate the materials. They act the hell out of it and Streep, as always, is mesmerizing to watch.