'The Post' - A timely tale
How Spielberg's latest movie resonates in today's political climate
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Steven Spielberg's elegantly made political thriller has a timely resonance in today's current climate, for more ways than one. Set against the backdrop of the Nixon administration and the Vietnam war ‘The Post’ encompasses themes of mortality, patriotism and sexism as the freedom of the press is placed at stake in this gripping thriller. Equipped with great performances by an immensely talented cast and a strong script by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer.
Returning from the Vietnam war disheartened analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) had been tasked with assessing the progress of the Americans in the long-gestating conflict. The study he is involved in would become known as the Pentagon Papers, a report which detailed the lack of progress by the US in the war amongst other things, a contradictory view to what had been put forward from the White House over the course of four presidents. The report is shelved but Ellsberg decides to leak it to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, the editor of the Washington Post Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is desperate for a story that will help propel the fledgling paper that is about to move from a family run business to going public on the US stock market. The owner of The Washington Post Kathrine Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), has inherited the paper passed to her from her late husband who in turn received it from Kay’s own father. One of the most surprisingly poignant elements of the film is Kay’s strife as a woman firmly rooted in a man’s world. Kay attends meetings in rooms filled with men, nervous to share her opinion even when she is correct and suffers the scepticism of her fellow board members due to what they identify as a lack of experience
The New York Times soon publishes a story about Ellsberg's leaked report only to be hit with an injunction by Nixon preventing them from publishing anymore. Things get complicated when a portion of the Pentagon Papers arrive in the offices of the Washington Post in a shoe box. The dilemma soon arises whether to publish and suffer the ire of the Nixon administration or hold off and miss one of the scoops of the century and continue to allow the government lie to the American people. While Bradlee as the news-hungry editor is desperate to publish, Kay must weigh the impact publishing may have on the paper, the jobs of all her employees and potential investors. What follows are a series of tense phone calls, secret meetings and heated arguments as the ethics and purpose of the press is called into question.
Spielberg's film acts as a spiritual prequel of sorts to Alan J. Pakula's ‘All the Presidents Men’ which details Nixon's eventual downfall at the hands of Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein a mere two years after the final events of ‘The Post’. Stunningly shot Spielberg perfectly captures the bustling chaos of Bradlee's newsroom, he also takes the audience inside the cranking and churning of the large printing machines so that the smell of wet ink and newspaper almost radiates off the screen. While the first act is burdened with a little too much chatter and exposition, once the papers arrive in act two, the film is instilled with an underlying tension and urgency that carries it thrillingly to its conclusion.
This is definitely one for the American history buffs, but it is also a film that raises important questions about the freedom of the press, with yet another inspiring performance from Meryl Streep in a strong and thought-provoking role of a woman in a society imbued with male chauvinism.
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