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 journalist and government.
Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are three of the biggest names in Hollywood, so it’s perhaps surprising that ‘The Post’ is the first time they’ve all worked together (a small voice part in ‘A.I.‘ is Streep’s only work with either). The film that brings them together is a political thriller depicting the true story of journalists from The Washington Post and their attempts to publish ‘The Pentagon Papers’, a series of classified government documents that provided proof that successive administrations had lied about the Vietnam War to the public. If it sounds like this is in the same ballpark as the likes of ‘All the President’s Men’, it absolutely is, with Tom Hanks portraying Ben Bradlee (played by Jason Robards in ‘All the President’s Men’) and the film taking place a couple of years earlier, albeit still within the timeframe of Richard Nixon’s presidency.
The film is about the importance of press freedom and I felt it made compelling drama out of this subject, particularly in how it managed to generate suspense around the decisions the characters had to make. ‘All the President’s Men’ is the benchmark for any investigative journalism film and ‘The Post’ has to operate in the same newsroom and the same time period, let alone just the same genre, but Spielberg and his ensemble cast manage to make the material feel timely and relevant (if not quite capturing the blisteringly urgent nature of Alan J. Pakula’s film). The film develops a couple of other themes largely through Meryl Streep’s role as newspaper heiress Katharine Graham, essentially the key decision maker who ultimately decides whether or not to publish the story. Graham inherited control of ‘The Washington Post’ after her husband’s suicide and we join her as she tries to navigate the uphill challenges of being the only female in a primarily male driven environment. Streep and Tom Hanks are both excellent in the leading roles and its entertaining watching both of them play off one another in the many dialogue heavy scenes that tease out the consequences of how they proceed with the story. With historical context, these are particularly interesting discussions.
One aspect I wasn’t as keen on was the little asides to Nixon on the phone through a White House window, which did feel a little on the nose and an unnecessary addition. Minor quibbles aside, ‘The Post’ is an accomplished political drama from Steven Spielberg, who directs a heavyweight cast through a sharp script about journalistic integrity and press freedom, as relevant as ever in the era of fake news. As we reach the conclusion, its wonderful tease into the next scandal that would ultimately prove fatal to the Nixon administration just makes me want to watch ‘All the President’s Men’ again’!
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, Zach Woods, Pat Healy, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jessie Mueller, Stark Sands and Neal Huff