At a time when journalism and the news media, in general, is under attack for delivering “fake news,” Steven Spielberg’s film The Post delivers a message on the importance of a free and separate press; the need for the truth to come out despite attacks from those in positions of power and influence.
The Post is a well-timed docudrama on the importance of the press in holding our leaders accountable. Thanks to a screenplay by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, as well as the capable vision of director Steven Spielberg, the film works as both a thriller and a history lesson. When first conceived, before the 2016 Presidential election, the film was most likely a look back at a golden era in film, the 1970’s and most directly, at the Alan Pakula film All the President’s Men. Today, it can be taken as a modern-day companion piece. In Donald Trump’s America, The Post is an important reminder that the press must have no connections to any political party or its members. The media is there to serve the public and not the government or the politicians.
It was The New York Times that broke the story of the Pentagon Papers. For those too young to remember, the Pentagon Papers was a confidential report that revealed how successive U.S. administrations knew the Vietnam War was not winnable, and how no President from either party wanted to be known as the first to lose a war. So American soldiers continued to go to war, and many would unnecessarily die. A court order stopped the Times from publishing any further reportage from the thousands and thousands of pages of the report.
It was at this point The Washington Post got hold of their own copy of the 47-volume report and had to make the dicey decision to publish or not. The choice was up to Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and most importantly publisher Katherine “Kay” Graham (Meryl Streep), the widowed wife of Phil Graham, who ran the paper now since her husband’s death.
Bradlee wants to publish the papers though it most likely meant The Washington Post would be dragged into the courtroom right alongside The New York Times. Besides that, Kay was close friends with Defense Secretary Bob McNamara (Robert Greenwood) who commissioned the report. Graham is a greenhorn in the newspaper business, but she realizes the importance of the story. She also knows and worries The Post, a family owned business for years and in financial difficulties, could be shut down.
Steven Spielberg manages to evoke the feel and mood of the 1970’s where the film is set. The Post newsroom is nicely recreated, filled with hustling reporters tracking leads and plenty of paper spread across everyone’s desks; this is, of course, long before computers ruled our lives. Like Spotlight, released two years ago, it will bring back memories of earlier great newspaper movies always filled with a collection of fascinating characters.
Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks head the cast. Streep is technically very good though she seemed too mechanical for me; like she knows at each point in the script where the audiences buttons will be pushed. As Kay, a pioneer in female leadership, she is at first pretty much ignored by all the men advising her. They sometimes talk like she isn’t even in the same room, an important touch reflecting the dynamics of a female in charge back in the 1970’s. In the end, Kay rises to the occasion and makes the final decision of whether to publish or not. Tom Hanks gives a solid performance as does the supporting cast that includes Matthew Rhys (Daniel Ellsberg), Tracy Letts (Fritz Beebe), Bob Odenkirk (Ben Bagdikian) and Sarah Paulson (Tony Bradlee)
The importance of a free press should be at the top of our priorities. It holds those in charge accountable. Still, the world has changed since the 1970’s. Back then, when newspapers were delivered to your doorstep, or you purchased it at a local newsstand, the headlines jumped up at you. It was new! Today, with the 24 hours news cycle on cable news, as well as on-line resources, the power of the newspaper has decreased. For me though, I still like reading the paper; it provides more detailed information than the three minute, or so soundbites blurted out by TV news, whether 24-hour news cycle or not. I also just like the feel of holding a newspaper in my hands. Maybe, I am just old fashion.
Spielberg ends the film with the break-in of the Watergate hotel. It’s a nice segue into the opening scene of All the President’s Men. What a great double feature they would make.
The bottom line is we need a free press, not one that is attacked, under minded or controlled by agenda minded, egotistical, self-centered politicians that only care about image and themselves. The press is our watchdog, that was the way it was in the 1970’s, and it is true today.
Well said. The importance of the press cannot be overstated, and history lessons in the form of film are an excellent reminder.
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So true. Here is what Thomas Jefferson had to say…
Hear Hear. The newspaper press still does the heaviest lifting in Journalism. They still break the huge stories and the Washington Post and the New York Times lead the way. God bless them.
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Very true. In depth investigating reporting. They need to call out our leaders. Today, more than ever.
OMG, I love how you infer that the reckless left wing media have not promoted fake news. This is such low-hanging fruit!
The Washington Post refused to print Christopher Steele’s fake dossier on then-candidate Trump during the late summer and early autumn of 2016 because they knew the “information” in it was not verified by reputable sources. They weren’t going to flush their journalistic credibility down the toilet when they knew the dossier was just a bunch of garbage intended as a partisan hit piece by Team Clinton. Besides, they believed Hillary was going to win, anyway. But then once Trump shocked the world by winning, all of a sudden The Post (and other left wing outlets) did a 180 by vouching for the credibility of the dossier even though it had still not had its contents verified.
Fake news, indeed.
Yes, this is the same Washington Post that was too chicken to re-print the Danish Mohammed cartoons from a decade ago, because they feared that Jihadists truly would retaliate against The Post with violence. Wow, the irony …
Such courage, such courage … (LOL)
Important topic, but a rather bland and predictable movie.
For me, it may be one of the most important films of the year. Not the best film, but important and a history lesson. I think we are pretty much on the same page.
Sorry to say that the premise that the press is supposed to be fair, objective, and serve the public sounds wonderful but in reality has always been biased. What was left out was the fact that the Democratic Party started the Viet Nam War and never did one thing to stop it until they were out of office. In the last election the press and 90 percent of journalists supported Clinton and the Democratic Party spent almost a half a billion more on the campaign and the American voters didn’t believe them or they policies. Please don’t kid yourself the press is still working for the Democratic Party at this very moment. Cable news today is almost unwatchable. As my friend has told me a hundred times “The media is causing all the problems in our Country” Having an objective media is a foolish thought today. Always enjoy your reviews
Thanks, I could not remember post film very well (even though obviously not long since watched). After watching a play called Frost v Nixon today, I have been finding out about watergate. I wrote a post and hope don’t mind have you credit for the information about Watergate in the Post
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