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The Post by John Williams (Review)

posted Jan 12, 2018, 10:00 PM by Koray Savas   [ updated Jan 12, 2018, 10:02 PM ]

Everyone is familiar with the magical partnership between director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams. One of the greatest cinematic collaborators in film history, The Post marks their 28th film together. For this outing starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, Williams harkens back to a familiar style from other political thrillers, particularly JFK and Munich, by utilizing a rhythmic propulsive underscore to fuel the dramatic narrative. For this review, I have chosen the Academy Awards 'For Your Consideration' promo as the basis for track titles and listening experience, which closest resembles the music's function in the film.

Here, Williams understands that less is more, thus creating a sparse soundscape with a handful of musical techniques that work in junction to create the driving force behind the film's hot topic of media v. government. There are brief moments of gentle piano and strings to represent the characters and their interpersonal relationships (hear "Dad's Note"), but the rest of the score largely consists of that aforementioned underscore. The opening, "The Papers And The Presidents," features some of my favorite Williams mannerisms, which includes pulsating synth percussion with interspersed guitar that builds tension in the subtlest of ways. It is conspiracy incarnated, and I love how Williams so effortlessly weaves these musical ideas into the underbelly of the musical narrative. It results in a more satisfying dramatic context, because it lets characters and action drive the plot while still supporting the story at play. This motif reappears later on in "Let's Publish," one of the many highlights of the score. Moreover, "Wild About Harry" is a similar cue, but stripped down even more, with some really engaging suspense writing that scores just do not utilize much anymore. The pacing is key here, and the way the strings flutter and rise create a tense scuttle of emotions that really draw you in.

With all that being said, the score still features Williams' traditional harmonies and wonderful use of brass. The climax: "Setting The Type," "Presses Roll," and "The Decision And End Credits," are 18 minutes of tour-de-force John Williams music. This is where the energy is cranked up and we are treated to some more classic orchestral flourishes; but the foundation that was built throughout the rest of the score is not abandoned here. The two meld together, creating a harsh tonal clash of action and suspense. "The Decision" gives us some standard Americana stylings, but once the credits hit nearly 8-minutes in, that gorgeous string motif kicks in to send the listening experience out with a bang. Things eventually simmer back down, though, and the final moments of the score provide a gentle reflective quality that eases us out of this journey.

The Post will most likely fall into the forgettable category to most John Williams fans, but his minimalistic percussive approach to political thrillers puts a much bigger smile on my face than something like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This duality is what makes Williams such a legend of his industry and a master of his craft. Those that appreciate the inner workings of scores such as Black Sunday, JFK, and Munich, will find much to explore and delve into here, while the meatier orchestral cues give classic fans something to enjoy as well.