Release Date(s)2017 (April 17, 2018)
Studio(s)DreamWorks/Amblin/Participant/Pascal/TSG (20th Century Fox)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
“The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”
As the Vietnam War rages on in 1971, Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys, of The Americans), a former State Department analyst working for the RAND Corporation, uncovers an extensive study that proves succeeding Presidential administrations from Truman to Nixon knew the conflict was unwinnable, yet lied about it to the American people, and continued sending soldiers to fight and die because admitting defeat wasn’t an acceptable outcome. Ellsberg copies these Pentagon Papers, and leaks them to the The New York Times, but the Nixon administration sues to silence the paper. Over at The Washington Post, heiress Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) has just been thrust into the position of publisher (upon the death of her husband, who built the paper) and is in no way prepared for the job. But when the paper’s executive editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), gaines access to the Pentagon Papers too, Katharine must decide whether or not to risk The Post’s future – not to mention possible criminal prosecution and her long friendship with both The White House and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara – or stand up for freedom of the press, and the truth, by publishing the story.
Directed by Steven Spielberg during the post-production of Ready Player One, The Post offered the veteran filmmaker the chance to do a complete 180 from effects-laden spectacle by making an old-school character drama. And while he’s collaborated with Hanks on a number of occasions, it’s strange to think that Spielberg had never worked with Meryl Streep before this film. This is also one of the finest ensemble casts the director has ever assembled. In addition to Steep, Hanks, and Rhys, The Post features Sarah Paulson (The People vs. OJ Simpson), Tracy Letts (actor and playwright of August: Osage County), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek), Carrie Coon (Fargo), Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man), Alison Brie (Community), and even an unexpected Mr. Show reunion with Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) and David Cross (Arrested Development). Add to this deft writing, remarkably detailed production design, and a fine John Williams score, and you have a film that demands and deserves your attention.
The Post was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision cameras and finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate. It’s been given an HDR10 color grade and is presented here on Ultra HD at the original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The Super 35 capture format ensures excellent fine detail and a steady but refined light-medium grain texturing that results in a pleasingly cinematic image. The palette is muted by design, appropriate to the newsroom setting, but when color is present it’s accurate and nuanced, with surprising subtlety of shadings. This is certainly helped by the high dynamic range grade, which lends the image deep blacks and strong highlights. This is mostly a darker film and, when its not, the lighting has an even, florescent quality that again reflects the office setting. What’s most striking here is the way cinematographer Janusz Kamiński captures a sense of depth in his imagery, not only through the use of physically large sets but also naturalistic lighting and generous on-set atmospherics.
Primary audio on the 4K Ultra HD is lossless English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s a good track, with fine clarity, lovely immersion, and a solid foundation of bass. Dialogue is clean and audible, and John Williams’ score – not to mention the period music – offers nice fidelity. This is a dialogue heavy film, not one that requires tremendous dynamics. But the mix delivers everything the story demands of it, placing you directly in the middle of the film’s unique environments. The ‘wild’ sound in the paper’s newsroom, for example, is quite pleasing – the din of conversation and the chatter of old-school mechanical typewriters really takes the viewer back in time. Also included on the disc is English 5.1 Descriptive Audio and Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, and French.
Fox’s 4K Ultra HD package contains a movie-only 4K disc along with the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray. That disc adds the following special features (all in HD):
- Layout: Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee & The Washington Post (21:51)
- Editorial: The Cast and Characters of The Post (15:56)
- The Style Section: Re-Creating an Era (17:02)
- Stop the Presses: Filming The Post (25:34)
- Arts and Entertainment: Music for The Post (6:45)
It’s not a lot of material, but it provides not just a fine look at the production itself but also good background and context on the real historical people and events depicted in the film. If you’re a history buff, in particular, it’s well worth your time to go through it all. Naturally, the package also includes a Movies Anywhere digital code on a paper insert, along with a second slip promoting the real Washington Post.
Steven Spielberg’s The Post is a strong period political drama and a kind of filmmaking that’s all-too rare these days. The film is fascinating, with a stellar cast, a deftly-mounted production, and no small amount of relevance tin our time. It ranks alongside Lincoln and Bridge of Spies among Spielberg’s recent best and is well worth sinking your teeth into. In terms of A/V quality, it’s hard to imaging a better experience that Fox’s 4K Ultra HD release. Recommended.
- Bill Hunt