One reason to see The Post? It’s cinematography. Janusz Kaminski (Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report), the Director of Photography, is a veteran collaborator with the film’s director, the one-and-only Steven Spielberg, whose trademark style has become so prominent, his panache is referred to as ‘Spielbergian’. Having worked with Steven Spielberg a wide variety of times, most notably on Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, Janusz Kaminski’s work continues to evolve and prove innovative with inventive techniques that will immerse anyone who views The Post. The story that runs a seamless one-hour and fifty-five minutes of screen time at a steady pace is written by Liz Hannah & Josh Singer (Long Shot, Spotlight) We go to the movies to be engrossed in the overall experience and Kaminski’s work doesn’t divert us from being captivated by this newsroom melodrama. Some directors are known to suppress the creativity of their cinematographers so that it doesn’t divert the viewer from paying attention to the dialogue. It’s clear that Steven Spielberg places equal importance on cinematography techniques; not just the plot and the characters.
Janusz Kaminski has the unique ability to adapt his style based on the movie he’s shooting. In The Post, Kaminski uses an assortment of tracking/point-of-view shots that take us directly into the perspective of the character, giving us an angle of perception on-screen. The range of zoom-shots that begin on a character’s line of dialogue and stop at the end was repetitively used. The most remarkable artistic choice was the two-shot using a long-take form without making a single cut in editing. Most notably, early in the film, when we first witness Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) meet for breakfast with Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), the camera stays on the two characters for the lengthy time, without a single cut, allowing us to witness acting at its finest as opposed to seeing filmmaking manipulations with edits. From the subtle mannerisms of Ben Bradlee’s newspaper fluttering and cigarette exhalations, to Kay Graham’s genuine facial expressions and delicate adjustments of her body language, we fully appreciate the scene as if we’re eavesdropping on reality. This is done at the expense of two all-time greats in Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Spielberg and long-time editor Michael Kahn (Indiana Jones Trilogy, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and former assistant editor, turned editor, Sarah Broshar (Lincoln, Bridge of Spies) decide to finally make a cut to an over-the-shoulder angle, giving us a fresh perspective of the characters we’ve just met for the first time. These long takes of wide shots and two-shots allow us to truly experience fine acting, like in the theatre, as opposed to viewing kinetic film editing, where movies of such nature are crafty, but, more manipulative to the audience’s perception of the actor’s performances on-screen. Spielberg dodges this by keeping one shot in a long take where we can truly witness great performances.
Steven Spielberg shines his signature glimmer and radiance upon almost every single scene in The Post with flawless lighting techniques, thanks to Janusz Kaminski and his camera crew. Intimate scenes in dark newsrooms cast 2:1 ratio’s on the faces of fine supporting performances. Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk, The Disaster Artist) and Fritze Beebe (Tracy Letts, The Big Short) are characters that give us the cozy feeling of spying on senior newsroom officials discussing top-secret government affairs. Most notably, there is a scene in the climax of the film, where the sun bathes its tinge color like a light from cloud nine upon the courageous idol of the moment. Like this moment, and countless others in The Post, the enchanted Spielbergian lighting repetitively reminds us that extraordinary events are taking place before our eyes.
The timing of the film’s worldwide theatrical release, whether intentional or inadvertent, couldn’t be more necessary, considering President Donald Trump devising tactics against his adversaries in the media. There are a few scenes where Spielberg allows us to spy on President Richard Nixon in the oval office, spewing outrageous and groundless commands. Perhaps, suggesting this is a similar mindset to our current President in Donald Trump, in attacking a ‘free’ press in reporting ‘fake’ news.
It would be difficult to view The Post, and not be reminded of Meryl Streep’s attack on President Trump, last year, when she accepted the Cecil B Demille award at the Golden Globes. To which, the President responded in a tweet, that Meryl Streep’s acting is ‘overrated’. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, especially when it comes to Art. Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Kay Graham is something fresh for her as an actor, considering many of her performances in the past involved the attributes of emotionally poised and incredibly confident characters. In Kay Graham, she transcendently reveals a timid, insecure, and at times, flustered character before she would become the legendary Washington Post icon who commanded the attention of everyone in the room as she engaged them with her presence. It is inevitable for any great actor to ultimately become ‘overrated’. That’s why they’re overrated in the first place; their performances are so sublime that they require overrating throughout their careers. Any actor who is underrated, perhaps, has not revealed to the world their greatness enough times to be considered ‘overrated’. Perhaps, it’s a long-term goal for any artist to become overrated; their work has been praised so widely, for so long, in so many different instances, that, eventually, they’ve valued to an exaggerated degree because of their prominence.
It’s incredibly difficult to give The Post a nod of the head or four or five stars. You might watch this film and think its tone is sensationalized, or you might think the performances are overdramatic, or maybe you’ll say the set pieces are so spotlessly precise that it’s inorganic. The production design cries 1970s reminiscence with excessive nostalgia and certain scenes are filled with cheese. But, hand that cheese to one of the greatest directors of all time, in collaboration with a phenomenal cinematographer, with a screenplay that bursts with cerebral dialogue, and you have The Post: a sentimental poem of nostalgia written for newsrooms, the American constitution, and human courage.