Cast: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Zach Woods, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jesse Plemons
Director: Steven Spielberg
With its themes of fighting to uphold the freedom of the press, and the importance of honest, uncompromised journalism, it’s not hard to see why Steven Spielberg’s new film “The Post” feels especially relevant today even though it mostly takes place during one week in 1971.
It’s the riveting true story of The Washington Post’s decision to defy threats from the Nixon Administration and to go ahead and publish the leaked Pentagon Papers that exposed the dirty secrets of the US government with regards to America’s role in the Vietnam War.
Like Spotlight, the Oscar-winning film from 2015, The Post is about the excitement and the thrill of reporting a big story. It’s a procedural that authentically captures the daily stresses and strains of the news gathering business, and Spielberg skillfully evokes drama and a sense of urgency from the roar of the presses, the sight of reporters banging away at their typewriters, and bundles of newspapers being flung out of trucks at the crack of dawn.
Tom Hanks stars as The Washington Post’s legendary editor Ben Bradlee, a veteran newspaperman determined to publish the Pentagon Papers because it’s correct journalism, and because he realizes it’s an opportunity that could put the newspaper in the big league. But it’s Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, his publisher, who’s currently in the process of taking the company public in order to raise more funds for the paper, who stands to lose everything if they were to report the story and take on the White House.
It’s the push-pull dynamic between editor and publisher that’s at the heart of this film. But frankly this is as much a feminist story. Streep’s character is basically a socialite thrust into a role she inherited from her late husband. She’s surrounded by a Board comprising men who undermine her opinion and reek of condescension. They advise her against publishing the Papers, and yet she risks it all to do the right thing. It’s one of the most rousing moments in the film, and Streep plays it as a moment of reckoning; the moment you know that Graham has finally grown into her role.
Layered and consistently compelling, The Post is a celebration of a woman’s rise to her full potential, and a tribute to the power of fearless journalism. You’ll find that in these times of “fake news” and “paid news” and political leaders trying to muzzle the media, it’s an inspiring reminder of the need for a free and fair press.
I’m going with four out of five. Don’t miss it.