Movie Review: The Post
Steven Spielberg’s latest film, The Post, finally hit a wide release over the past weekend. Directed by Spielberg and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, the film follows the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s by The Washington Post. Meryl Streep stars as Katharine Graham, the president and publisher of The Washington Post, and Tom Hanks stars as her editor-in-chief, Ben Bradlee. In addition to two stunning leads, the cast is also supported by performances from Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, and Matthew Rhys. Also, the score for the film is crafted by the legendary composer John Williams.
While primarily set in the 1970’s, the beginning of the film starts in 1965 in Vietnam. A military analyst by the name of Daniel Ellsberg (Rhys) accompanies U.S. troops in combat to document the progress in the area. He reports these findings to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Greenwood), who in private agrees that they are fighting a losing battle in Vietnam. However, publicly McNamara and others in the administration laud their progress in Vietnam and mislead the public. Several years later Ellsberg, who is now a civilian military contractor, secretly photocopies classified reports since Truman’s administration that detail the losing battle in the Vietnam region. When The New York Times begins to print about these classified documents, Ben Bradlee (Hanks) at The Washington Post urges his people to find a copy of the papers for themselves. However, when The Times receive a court injunction for printing the papers, Kay Graham (Streep) must decide if and how The Washington Post will proceed with such high stakes at play.
I might be a little biased in my love for stories that revolve around journalism, but I thought The Post was excellent. It is classified as a political thriller, and I feel like Spielberg is a mastermind at making the audience feel the weight of all that is at stake for Graham and the leaders at The Washington Post. The writers did an excellent job of establishing the climate of the 1970’s and the effect of the Nixon presidency. The writers also did an excellent job at deftly showing how the problem started long before Nixon and showed how Truman and everyone who took the oath of office after him had contributed to the lies about Vietnam. While they do a great job of providing information about the papers, the film also does an excellent job of showcasing the world of print journalism in the 1970’s. It conveys the rivalry that The Washington Post attempts to have with The New York Times, even though they are nowhere close to that caliber at this point in time.
However, I think the most surprising part of this film is how it focuses on Katharine Graham and her somewhat newfound leadership at The Washington Post. Graham is most definitely a woman in a man’s world, and she struggles quite a bit with asserting herself and taking the reins of the company that belongs to her. She faces the struggle of taking The Post public at a time when the future of the paper was truly unknown. The backbone of the film is Graham trying to balance her worlds and actually lead the paper when most of the people around her do not believe that she is capable of doing so. It also goes without saying that Streep’s performance as Graham is fantastic, and she delivers on all of her hesitations and her victories.
Overall, I think The Post is truly a great film that has some deeply personal moments amongst the grand scale story of the press going up against the government. It is a story about truth and the decisions we make, and it is a story about leadership. All of the performances were fantastic, and while it is easy to focus on the performances from Hanks and Streep, Bob Odenkirk really did shine in his performance as Ben Bagdikian. Also, I absolutely loved the way the film ended, which I thought was extremely clever. It is another solid film from Spielberg, and I think that The Post is definitely worth a watch in theater, especially if you are a fan of this particular genre.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.