Steven Spielberg’s latest fantasy film has pushed the genre to even more unbelievable territory, this time imagining a world where journalists act with integrity and government is held accountable for their actions.
Spielberg of course has a long history of leapfrogging between fantastical/science fiction universes and serious historical dramas. With The Post, he has returned to his roots, giving us less Lincoln and more Close Encounters of the Fourth Estate.
The film takes place in a surreal alternate reality in which two newspaper chiefs (played by Tom Hanks’ and Meryl Streep’s Academy Award statues on each other’s shoulders, disguised in a 1970s suit) face possible incarceration for publishing a secret report that would hold the government accountable for their dishonesty.
It’s a unique, high concept idea, and we watch as they and the supporting cast of journalists consistently put truth, quality and ethics of reporting over the paper’s need to sell ad space and attract audiences with sensationalist stories.
It’s a wonderful fictional world they are asking us to imagine, but I just find it difficult to get on board a story that depicts a paper printing headlines without puns. Who would read such a publication?
Unfortunately that isn’t even the biggest leap of imagination the film asks you to take. The Nixon White House The Post has created is an obscene caricature of an executive branch ruled by a corrupt, egotistical megalomaniac who seems willing to attack the foundation of democracy to protect his own criminal actions.
Fortunately, one thing the fantastical The Post shows is that Hollywood remains one of the last bastions of morality in the world. They alone are bravely asking us to dream of a better world where anything is possible and, more importantly, leading us all by example. I for one am glad we have this industry to show us all the way.
We can hope that as Spielberg matures he is brave enough to show us his more down-to-Earth side. His next film about a world unhealthily immersed in virtual reality sounds a lot more true to life than this unfortunate misjudgement.