Review: The Post

It’s the most timely film of the year without a doubt, with the most respected lead actors on earth, directed by one of America’s favorite directors. It’s a political thriller and a #GirlPower drama all rolled into one. And it’s a true story. Meryl Streep stars as Kay (Katherine) Graham, publisher of The Washington Post. And Tom Hanks plays editor Ben Bradlee. The Post is the story of their decision in 1971 to print the Pentagon Papers, a secret 47 volume Defense Department study that revealed decades of government lies about the Viet Nam War. The New York Times had broken the story, but the Nixon White House shut them down with threats of prosecution for espionage. So The Post decided to use the Times’s demise to run with it and print even more of the inflammatory facts. The central question which drives the story is will they get it to print before the Justice Department shuts them down, too.

The film is also the story of Kay Graham coming into her own in the male dominated world in which she lived. At the same time that Graham is deciding whether to risk it all on this explosive story, the privately owned paper is going public to save her family business from going under, and she’s surrounded by men who think they should be able to tell her what to do and how to do it. Only Meryl Streep could convey the subtle transformation of Graham as she asserts her power and becomes one of the great publishers of our time. Graham is a complex character. She’s a socialite whose dad owned the paper and handed it off to her husband who committed suicide. She’s close friends with much of the Washington elite, notably Robert McNamara, who will be damaged by the publication of the Pentagon Papers, making her decision to publish even harder. And as the film progresses, she’s finding her voice.

What makes this such a timely issue is the Nixon Administration’s attempts to limit a free press. It makes you think of Snowden and Wikileaks and the current resident of the White House’s war with the press. It’s a love letter to great journalism and the people who make it happen. It’s great to see Tom Hanks in a role where he isn’t just the nice guy again. As Bradlee he’s tough and driven and energized by this story of our government’s decades of sending young men to die in a foreign war based on lies. It’s one of his best performances in a long time. And Spielberg steers the film as only he can, masterfully. I’d recommend this movie to wide audiences. As a history lesson, as a woman’s empowerment story, as a primer on the 1st amendment, and as great storytelling. It’s got it all!

The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. – Justice Black 1971

[Mainstream Chick’s take: The Post is a solid, character-driven film that is indeed timely and deserves to be seen and celebrated for its message. It reaffirmed my decision to re-up my subscription to The Washington Post (masthead slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness”). Streep and Hanks are excellent as Graham and Bradlee, but did anyone ever really doubt that would be the case? I liked the film a lot but didn’t love it to the level of a ‘Best Picture’ nom. It lacks the drama that made “Spotlight” and “All the President’s Men” journalism movie juggernauts. -hb

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