'The Post': What the Critics Are Saying

Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox
'The Post'

The initial batch of reviews are mostly positive for the Steven Spielberg-directed film starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

The reviews are in for Steven Spielberg’s latest film The Post, and they are mostly positive, judging from the critics' takes that posted shortly after the review embargo lifted Wednesday morning.

The film is slated to open in select theaters Dec. 22 and go wide Jan. 12.

The Post follows the true story of Washington Post publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) as they overcome many obstacles to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

Just nine months after Spielberg read Liz Hannah’s screenplay, the film is set to hit theaters.

“I could not believe the similarities between today and what happened with the Nixon administration against their avowed enemies The New York Times and The Washington Post,” Spielberg told The Hollywood Reporter about the film’s quick production process. "I realized this was the only year to make this film.”

Read on to see what critics like and dislike about The Post.

THR's Todd McCarthy praised Spielberg’s consistent ability to keep the story moving. “The Post possesses the same energy and vigor as the films he made decades ago,” he wrote. McCarthy added that while viewers already know the outcome of the story, “the swift and observant storytelling sustains interest all the way in a film that doesn't overstay its welcome despite its vast cast of characters and the considerable ground it covers.” When it comes to the pic’s stars, McCarthy found that Streep’s performance was the most notable. "It's a performance that blossoms slowly and credibly,” he said. As for Hanks, the actor "doesn't quite have the gravelly voice of experience and authority in the role that Jason Robards did in his Academy Award-winning performance as Bradlee” in All the President’s Men. McCarthy also pointed out a number of standout supporting castmembers, noting Bob Odenkirk’s turn as Post assistant managing editor Ben Bagdikian as “an excellent change of pace” for the actor.

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said the film is “rousingly watchable.” The writer describes Hanks and Streep’s performances as “luxuriously upholstered, effortlessly fluent, busting with relatability.” He added that The Post’s main flaw is the lack of in-depth coverage of Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), who faced up to 115 years in prison following the events in the film. Nevertheless, Bradshaw says of The Post, “it’s a stirring drama of principle."

Richard Lawson from Vanity Fair is another critic who gave the movie a positive review. “The Post just hits so many of the right buttons, so effectively, that it seems like something made in a lab to win big showbiz awards handed out by happily comforted and inspired Democrats,” he wrote. Lawson had a more favorable view than McCarthy of Hanks' portrayal, saying of the actor's turn as Bradlee, “he does it with gravelly grace.” As for Streep, the critic found her performance to be “mannered and technical” and “affords Graham all kinds of subtle humanity while still filling the space of Spielberg’s film.”

USA Today’s Brian Truitt said that The Post focuses on “bigger-picture championing of the First Amendment,” compared to films like All President’s Men and Spotlight that instead highlight “the dogged procedural aspect of reportage.” He added, “Liz Hannah and Josh Singer’s screenplay crackles with intrigue but goes overboard in trying to mirror today's 24/7 news cycle.” Truitt described Hanks as “enjoyable” in the film, while the role of Graham was “built for Streep to slay.” He also noted that the pic, which is set in 1971, is “the most politically timely high-profile Hollywood tale of 2017.”

Like Truitt, IndieWire writer David Ehrlich found that The Post “feels less like a historical thriller set in 1971 than it does an exhilarating caricature of the year 2017.” He added, “In a year full of accidental Trump movies, this is the first one that’s completely on purpose.” While The Post is not the first film to tackle the world of journalism, Ehrlich believes “few films have so acutely traced the triangular relationship between journalists, sources and subjects, and even fewer have so palpably expressed the personal cost of maintaining that sacred dynamic.” He praised Streep’s performance, stating, “she hasn’t been this good since Adaptation.” He also said that a number of supporting castmembers, including Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons and Zach Woods, “each strike the right note of theatrical sincerity.”

One critic who was not impressed by Spielberg’s latest film is Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio. “The flow of the story has a lot of false starts, the John Williams score isn’t as powerful as his other legendary pieces for the director,” he wrote. “There are a couple of moments that are probably the lamest I’ve ever seen in a Spielberg movie.” The writer did note that Spielberg “finds gold” with the casting of Streep as Graham. “There's even a bit of a Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada swagger to her when informing the board that the Post is running the papers,” he wrote. Guerrasio concluded that The Post has “some powerful moments” and “is timely with what’s going on in the country today.” He suggested that the quick turnaround for the film may be its biggest downfall. “The speed to get the movie out the door may have prompted choices that, with more time, would have been thought out better,” he said.

Forbes writer Scott Mendelson said Rhys' performance as Ellsberg is “superb,” while Streep was described as “quite good.” As for Hanks, Mendelson said he is “as lively and charismatic as he's been since Toy Story 3.” The critic added that Streep and Hanks “bounce wonderfully off each other even if they spend much of their screen time in separate locations.” Sarah Paulson earned praise for her work as Tony Bradlee in a “seemingly thankless ‘supportive wife’ role." Streep and Paulson are both acknowledged for moving forward a “tale of suited (white) men doing important work [that] becomes a damning indictment of the societal costs of institutional sexism.” While Mendelson believes the film has its flaws, including “a needless historical epilogue,” he concluded, “The Post is a riveting and thoughtful entertainment that is the kind of thing Hollywood wishes it could still crank out on a regular basis.”