Jett Sanders’ young son Jake goes missing at the start of “The Post,” and I’m afraid to report the news ain’t good. It’s soon discovered that he’s been the victim of a fatal beating, leaving behind a wake of family and loved ones who attempt to piece together what happened to the kid. You can immediately feel the enormous weight a situation like this causes to the family and their small community. It’s one thing to beat someone to their death in broad daylight, but it’s also another thing to send a video of that beating to their father. Jett becomes justifiably consumed with the idea of finding those responsible for his son’s murder. While it’s clearly something that has affected the whole family and the community around them, no one seems to be nearly as motivated as Jett is to get some answers – and he’s ready to take action. He’s also drinking bourbon first thing in the morning now. Cue the plot for a good ol’ revenge movie – I love this genre.
“The Post” becomes a whole lot more about Jett than it does about Jake - with every day that goes by, you can see him slipping further into his madness and rage. As others continue to move on, Jett is stuck in the moment of his son’s death – and who could blame him? A subplot is introduced, and a fairly sick one at that, whereby the school system and its sports program turn sinister and likely have something to do with Jake’s murder, or at least know more about it than they’re letting on. Jett keeps digging and drinking, leading us to a larger question that revolves around the reality of a scenario like this: How far do you let yourself go to settle the score? If you lose yourself and who you are in the process of getting revenge, then isn’t that two lives lost instead of one - and twice the tragedy? Jett seems like he was a damn good father before all this horrible stuff happened to his son, and we see that onscreen through a healthy use of flashback scenes. His wife, Brooke, starts to carry the load and presumably the financial burdens of the family while Jett keeps on withdrawing from life on the surface, and behind the scenes, he’s researching who could be his son’s killers. When other kids start turning up dead, the Rayford police realize there’s a massive problem that is only beginning and that what started with Jake Sanders has created a chain reaction of horrific events.
So, while reporters are asking questions and the police are scrounging for information, we’re left to wonder how deep the corruption goes. As Writer/Director Justin Hunt has left zero doubt about who’s responsible for the murder of Jett’s son, the real mystery becomes about who else knows about it and the lengths that are being taken to cover it up. I don’t personally know what life is like inside of the small Rayford community or how many folks might live there, but to be fair; they can certainly fill a football stadium, so there are more than a few.
That being said, it feels like “The Post” is playing really loose with the plotline in terms of what we’re supposed to accept on our side of the screen. If the answers to this mystery are obvious to us, and the killers could have only come from one very specific part of the community, then how is it that justice through the system is so impossible to achieve? Even if the law and the school system might be tangled up in this tale, are we supposed to accept that would be the only way to achieve a resolution here in this day & age? Vigilante justice becomes the ultimate answer, of course, which I’d understand either way – but what I’m saying is that the wheels of any kind of justice for Jake are turning so incredibly slow that anyone would be rightly suspicious of the many involved. Later on, as other kids are being murdered, there seems to be only one logical explanation as to what could be going on, and even with a lack of concrete evidence, it’s hard to believe it could be anything otherwise. It ends up feeling like we’re going to be told what the twists of “The Post” were all along, neatly wrapped up, rather than having been shown or led to its rightful conclusion.
Do you see what I’m saying? “The Post” almost makes too much sense & allows little room for the mystery it intends to reveal. As Jett finds himself in more trouble as time goes on, we know that there’s going to be another explanation, and we’re somewhat forced to just go with it, as opposed to having our own concrete evidence that something else explains his fate. We’re running the full 100 yards in an earnest attempt to allow this mystery the opportunity to suspend our disbelief, and that feels like it’s the element lacking the most here. “The Post” is cohesive, sure – but there are very few surprises here and not quite enough information to make things as believable as they perhaps should be.
Take the scene of Jett on the outside of the courtroom, for example – we’re asked to accept and believe a whole heck of a lot in the aftermath of a trial that we never get to see and one that moved a heck of a lot faster than any trial you’ve ever heard of going through the system in this past couple of decades. It’s one example of many where Hunt could have shown us more than told us what was really happening in the story of “The Post.” Combined with a cast’s worth of acting that I’d probably describe as sufficient more so than compelling…I dunno…”The Post” feels consistently good enough without finding the drive to be more than it is.
Jett (Angus Benfield) has a few memorable moments, as does Jake (Zach West) in the flashback scenes we see, but beyond that, there’s a lot about “The Post” from its cast to its story that seemed to play it way too safe, which threatens to send this film straight into the sea of sameness.Even when we come to the final reveal, we don’t really get that opportunity to be as shocked as Jett is because we’re not exactly talkin’ about “The Usual Suspects” here, so much as the only suspect, you see what I’m saying? “The Post” is watchable, I’ll give it that. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the time I spent watching it either – but I am saying there’s not really a whole lot new here, and that’s a bit problematic. It felt like this movie needed a standout element that consistently remained missing, and simply filling us in on the details at the end isn’t really enough to make up the gaps between what’s believable & what’s not.
“The Post” ain’t bad, but it’s hard to say it’s great too – and it felt like there were plenty of opportunities to potentially make it better by showing us more than telling us the details of the plotline. It’s always fair to say that a critic has seen a few more movies than most, but it’s hard to imagine that “The Post” is going to be as shocking as it’s intended to be, even to the average everyday viewer out there. I’m gonna meet a bit past the middle line - because it does tell a story that is intact and ties up loose ends, but there was so much more room to evolve in terms of how this tale was told and how to make its eventual conclusion much more believable as a result. “The Post” receives a solid three out of five from me.