A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government.
“The Post” may be a historical piece about the release of the Pentagon Papers but it is impossible to watch without also analyzing the position we currently find ourselves. Scripts are written years in advance. Next, comes along a director looking for a new production, production schedules, casting, etc. Finally, we get a movie. This process can take years, if not longer. When a release date comes along, studios and the writers are left with a piece of cinema that may be viewed in a different light. In the Trump era, it is nearly impossible to keep him out of your mind while watching this movie.
“The Post” much like “Spotlight,” the Academy Award-winning film from a few years ago, is an ode to real journalism; the kind that has the power to shake the entire Earth. Here, our film begins with an embedded journalist on the frontline with soldiers in Vietnam. Soon after that experience, our journalist comes across what became known as the Pentagon Papers; documents outlining the truth behind the Vietnam War.
First, the documents are leaked to the New York Times. The Times spends months combing through the data, breaking it down for public consumption, and preparing for release. Meanwhile, the Washington Post, like every other paper, is unaware of this treasure trove of information. As the Times begins releasing information, they are hit with a court order to cease printing from the US government over a fear of the mass release of government secrets and troop safety. In the Time’s absence, the same papers fall into the lap of the Washington Post.
What makes The Washington Post story compelling is the woman in charge. Meryl Streep plays Kay Graham. She is the widow of the paper’s former owner and now finds herself in the driver’s seat as she begins to take the company behind the Post public. Repeatedly, we are confronted with the challenges facing women in the boardroom. The sexism Kay Graham faces may seem like a thing of the past, yet all we must do is pick up a paper to learn otherwise.
Playing alongside Streep is Tom Hanks who portrays Ben Bradlee. Bradlee is an old-school journalist and editor focused on the truth at all costs. His fearlessness and tenacity will inspire you to turn off Fox News and find some real journalists for a change.
As the Washington Post weighs the pros and cons of publishing the papers, it becomes clear the decision will fall on the shoulders of Graham. Here Streep shines as she becomes the manifestation of Atlas with the weight of the world on her shoulders. If she prints, she will find herself in court and could lose her company. If she doesn’t print, the government wins the right to influence what is printed and when.
Ultimately, her decision is well-documented in history. By printing, she secured a victory for the freedom of the press and helped end the war with truth. When this entire film is stitched together, it becomes a near flawless character analysis about those behind one of the biggest leaks and government history and the press who held that government accountable.
Be good to each other.