The Post Movie Review
Movies are a visual medium, and newspapers are a more static media. So, when a movie has its main focal point on the creation and publication of a story, it better be a damn good one. Or at least an important one. In this case, the story fits on both accounts. “The Post” is a retelling of the events that led up to the printing of the Pentagon Papers by the Washington Post in the summer of 1971. It was a blockbuster story of a secret study conducted about the origins and (lack of) progress of the Viet Nam War. It resulted in major changes in the nation’s view of the War, and it started a legal battle that ended in the Supreme Court.
The Washington Post has an owner and publisher named Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep). Kat Graham took over from her late husband, and many people think she is in over her head. But the paper has a top-notch crew working there, led by Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). The paper is struggling, because many top stories are scooped up by The New York Times. The Times isn’t even located in Washington. A major reporter from the Times has not published anything for a while, and Bradlee thinks he is going to publish a huge breaking story very soon. He gets his reporter Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) to start and research what it might be.
Bagdikian knows a fellow he used to work with named Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys). Ellsberg is working for on a secret study of the War, but he was so fed up with the official deception that he leaks the top-secret Pentagon Papers to the Times. Ellsberg finally talks to Bagdikian, and he agrees to also give a very sensitive copy of the Papers to the Washington Post. The Post will be able to study and then publish parts of the Pentagon Papers, and they will be as famous as the New York Times. The Times publishes first, and as usual, gets the major scoop. Kat Graham has many friends in Washington, including Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), who has been put into a very negative light by the publication of the Papers…
During the same time, Kat Graham puts the Washington Post up as a publicly-owned company, with her family as the majority stock owners. This is big change for her and her family, plus also a huge switch for the paper. The newsroom is now also feeling pressure to not rock the boat. But they are sitting on a major story that will allow them to compete with the New York Times. However, Nixon’s Justice Department has issued a cease and desist order on the Times to prevent any more stories about the Pentagon Papers. If the Post publishes a new story from the research that Bagdikian and his fellow reporters has done, they might violate the cease and desist and be arrested.
So it comes down to the reporters and Bradlee and Graham talking on the phone with lawyers in the middle of the night. Will “The Post” pull the trigger on a major story, and publish it the next day? Will Kat Graham put her stake in the paper on the line, and potentially mess up the new Washington Post stock purchases? Will Ben Bradlee get in the same league as the New York papers and publish a ground-breaking story? Will the Supreme Court decide to allow newspapers across the country to freely get vital information to the public? Will Steven Spielberg get even more accolades and rewards, along with Streep and Hanks? You can rest assured on that…
This is not the first movie based on a major story out of the Washington Post. See “All the President’s Men” for more information on that. But this movie happens before the “President’s Men”, and it also has the feel of historical drama come to life. The story runs quickly and merges the ‘Graham takes the paper to a public stock ownership’, and ‘we need to publish a major a story’ plot lines seamlessly. The background of how Graham and Bradlee were good friends with many Washington insiders is fascinating. The build-up to the final publication is done with great tension and a sense of potential danger. Only Spielberg can create a scene of a four-way phone call that evokes a level of stress that mirrors the landing at Normandy. But with a lot less blood.
Tom Hanks performs a marvelous job with the role of Bradlee, as does Meryl Streep with the Katherine Graham role. Seeing scenes of these two together are pure acting magic. There are long takes of the two of them talking about the newspaper business, and they have such great rapport it is amazing. He has taken a simple story and infused it with a real-life and true-to-life sensibility. The ramifications of what the Times and Post did back in the early 1070’s still holds currency with what happens today. All the other actors are very good in the way that they make the 70’s feel alive and real.
“The Post” is a terrific movie that deserves to be seen and deserves to be rewarded. This movie is not just yesterday’s news…
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The Post Review
The Post Summary
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Liz Hannah & Josh Singer
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys
Music by: John Williams
Length: 116 minutes:
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and brief war violence