Movies about journalistic endeavors are growing in popularity, largely as a result of the attack on the news media by the current American administration. "The Post" is the latest entry into the genre. The film does a good job of blending the story of its time and the one unfolding before our very eyes now. While grounding our current situation, however, the film does get lost in some of it's more heavy-handed ideas about the press, freedom of speech, and feminist empowerment.

About the movie

"The Post" is a political thriller focusing on a historical moment in the newspaper business.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie was released December 22, 2017.

With the failure of the Vietnam War coming into clearer focus, a former government contractor leaks the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. After a court ruling against them, the Washington Post is suddenly given the opportunity to take the lead on reporting the Pentagon Papers. Personal connections and power struggles make the release more difficult, though. The decision to publish ultimately comes down to two people that are polar opposites.

'The Post' delivers

"The Post" is nothing if not a solid political thriller. There's a clear narrative around where the Pentagon Papers came from and why they were important. Moments of intrigue fill the screen as audience members debate the merits of every decision.

It's largely edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Meryl Streep is as impressive as always. She plays Katharine Graham, who took over as owner of the Washington Post following her husband's suicide. As the movie progresses, she becomes more and more cognizant of her power, which can't be deterred by her gender. By the time the big decision comes around, she takes charge in the way we always anticipated.

Tom Hanks, meanwhile, plays a slightly different character than what audiences may be used to from him. He's more cocksure, brash, and self-indulgent as Post publisher Ben Bradlee. Yet despite this, it's clear that his stand goes beyond a chance to make money. He really believes that the press needs to keep the government in check, not the other way around.

In that sense, Hanks again builds his classic likable character.

Journalism movies have always appealed to me. Part of that has to do with career interests. But part of it also has to do with the creation of a story that truly impacts lives and reminds people of a historical moment that may not have existed without the 'fifth estate.' Seeing how those stories come together remains moving, even four decades later.

The acting from the other players in "The Post" was strong as well, particularly from Bob Odenkirk, who played a chief editor. There were random actors who popped up and were impossible to place throughout the movie, such as former "Arrested Development" star David Cross. It's a testament to a solid ensemble cast, albeit one that is predominantly male.

The treatment of Richard Nixon in "The Post" is also somewhat hilarious. We never see his face - we just hear his grumblings in the White House. An aura is created, suggesting that those might be real recordings of the disgraced president, though the movie makes that entirely unclear. A direct line is drawn between the Pentagon Papers and Watergate as well, though it felt silly.

Comparison to another journalism movie

Before going into the movie, I flashed back to "Spotlight." It was one of the best journalism movies of all-time and went on to be recognized as "Best Picture" by the Oscars in 2015. That film worked because of the emotional gravitas that came with the story as a small team of reporters worked to expose an incredibly large abuse scandal.

In that manner, "The Post" falls short. We see the effect publication has on the people involved in the decision, but not the various people impacted by it. Outside of the opening scene and a few glazed-over protests, the audience never witnesses the true horror of the Vietnam War. In "Spotlight," it's painfully clear why the work the journalists are doing matters.

In "The Post," the fallout lays with the president and the people in power. The trickle down to the rest of society is never clear.

Another issue with the movie is the cadence of dialogue. For people more into the fine print that goes into publishing a newspaper, the conversations in the film can be riveting. For everyone else, it can sink into the soporific.

Again, dividing the drama with some shots of people being affected by the decisions of the newspaper leaders could've aided this problem.

Final thoughts

Overall, "The Post" delivers on a promise to tell a compelling story about one of the more important moments in contemporary American history. Sometimes, it gets lost within itself, hiding in the boardroom or the living room instead of revealing itself to the vast majority. But the fine print doesn't obscure strong performances and an essential story that remains relevant today.

Rating: A-