The Post by John Williams

The collaboration between director Steven Spielberg & composer John Williams has certainly been one of the most fruitful and inspiring ones in film history. They have been working together for more than four decades. These two phenomenal artists seem to compliment each other so well and of all the films they have worked on together so far, it seems almost impossible to select a favorite film and or score. John Williams has scored all of Mr. Spielberg’s movies with only very few exceptions. Prominent examples are The Color Purple (Quincy Jones), Bridge of Spies (Thomas Newman) and the upcoming Ready Player One. (Alan Silvestri)

For his new film The Post, director Spielberg would not only team up with John Williams again (for the 28th time) but he also once more assembled a stellar cast. Steven Spielberg is a director of the highest caliber and I hold him in very high regard. In his new film, he tackles the true story which deals with a team of journalists and their attempt to expose highly sensitive government secrets. A subject matter of this kind seems like perfect Steven Spielberg material. He has always been one of the very best storytellers and needless to say the same goes for John Williams and his musical abilities. The film itself is definitely not the kind of film today’s mainstream audience craves for. For a movie of this kind, the story itself and especially how it is told are the most important aspects and Spielberg once again delivers.

At times, the film feels a bit “dry”. Nonetheless, this is only a small drawback in an otherwise really well-executed movie. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep deliver noteworthy performances and the other cast members also don’t fail to impress. The Post has been nominated for two Oscars – Best Picture and Best Actress in a Leading Role. Those two nominations don’t come as a big surprise as Spielberg’s ability to tell this story and his craftsmanship are beyond reproach and Meryl Streep is one of the finest and most impressive actresses to ever work in this industry. Unfortunately, long-time Spielberg collaborators such as Michael Kahn (editor) and Janusz Kamiński (director of photography) have not been considered for nomination this time. Surprisingly absent from this list is John Williams. This year, the maestro has been nominated for Star Wars instead – a fact which I find a bit surprising. Don’t get me wrong. Williams’ most recent Star Wars score is superb. However, I thought that the Academy would go for The Post.

As The Post deals with a delicate subject matter, John Williams had to reflect this sensitivity musically as well. With a film of this kind, I am sure nobody would expect a hugely spectacular musical approach by the maestro. The great thing about Williams is that he has always been a composer who seems to be able to effortlessly capture a film’s spirit with just a few notes. Many people praise him for his big thematic scores and grand writing for large orchestra. I tend to believe that his smaller and somewhat more low-key scores are just as attractive.

The Post is not likely to be a historic John Williams score. Neither is it likely to be considered a future classic of this extraordinary composer. Yet one thing is for sure. This man still got it. At the age of eighty-six, he is still able to write absolutely fascinating and simply brilliant music. As a matter of fact, of all the scores he has written in his career, I would consider very few efforts “uninteresting” or even “lackluster”. 

The Post, despite having some classic John Williams material and orchestration, feels rather delicate and quiet. It is a well-written score which, in some areas, also echoes previous Williams’ efforts.

In addition to the classic sound of John Williams, the first piece “The Papers” features a very nice electronic rhythm which is something he is not necessarily associated with. Of course he has used electronic elements before, but synths are not a regular “tool” for this brilliant composer.

“The Presses Roll” and so does the music. Williams wrote an interesting cue with nice and expressive string work. This piece accompanies a very important scene in the film’s third act when the decision is made to finally print and publish the story. Throughout this score, Williams varies the tempo skillfully. As always, he knows what he is doing and the music is at times powerful and nonchalant at the same time. Besides being a fantastic composer, Mr. Williams is also a great pianist. Three cues in particular showcase his talent for writing beautiful piano melodies. “The Oak Room, 1971”, “Two Martini Lunch” & “Mother & Daughter” are three gorgeous cues that represent some of the album’s highlights. Ironically, “The Oak Room, 1971” is barely noticeable in the final film and it was more a source cue than score. The album is kept rather short and sweet. It features ten tracks and clocks in at forty minutes.

On top of that, most cues are under three minutes. Only in the final piece, “The Court’s Decision and End Credits” do you get to hear most of Williams’ primary ideas fully fleshed out. This eleven-minute piece nicely sums up the entire score.

Like I said before, this score won’t go down in history as one of his very best. Yet, it is a very good score that simply has that John Williams magic which will most likely satisfy his fans. The score sounds at times delicate, sometimes glorious & also withdrawn. Especially during the final moments of the film, the music picks up the pace. “Setting the Type” is a textbook example of good filmmaking as Williams’ score and Michael Kahn’s editing are in perfect sync again. Steven Spielberg & John Williams have proved countless times that they know how to capture the audience with their brilliant skills. We should consider ourselves very lucky to still be given the chance to experience films of this kind. Both film and score, despite having some “weaknesses”, are definitely worthy of your attention.