Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Bob Odenkirk
Based on a true story is the retelling of how the Washington Post decided to publish the top-secret Pentagon Papers that detailed four Presidents, including the current one, and their involvement in having American military in Vietnam. Do these reporters have a responsibility to the American people to publish the truth or do they have a responsibility to their government to protect our leaders? At what risk do they go to just to deliver the truth. The entire company of the Washington Post could go under. Many employees could go to jail. This movie holds you on the edge of your seat as each detail gets revealed.
The Post is a rich recreation of 1971 America – the cars, the clothes, the music, the speeches. Each character, no matter how minor, is created as three-dimensional. Each significant action, no matter how small, receives focus. One example: The Pentagon Papers were 7000 pages long. How did Daniel Ellsberg, in 1971, manage to smuggle 7000 pages to the press? The film shows the workings of a 1971-era photocopy machine. Copying all the pages took Ellsberg and two friends all night. Later, Post reporters must struggle to piece together these thousands of pages that are not numbered and are not in order. Spielberg spares no detail.
My eyes were glued to the screen from the first second to the last. I came to care about and invest in each character. Testimony to the power of Steven Spielberg’s filmmaking.
Washington Post editor Katherine Graham, played in the film by Meryl Streep, was a wealthy heiress who, until her mentally ill and unfaithful husband committed suicide, had never had to work a day in her life. The Post” is almost less about the reporters and their commitments to telling the public the truth but is more about Katherine Graham’s story. She was a shy and insecure woman who was faced with a decision that rocked her world. She was personal friends with Robert McNamara, mastermind of the Vietnam War. Similarly, Ben Bradlee (played fantastically by Tom Hanks) was friendly with John F. Kennedy, a president who escalated the war. Katherine Graham’s son Donald served in Vietnam. Streep’s intimate and fully realized performance as well as Spielberg’s virtuosic filmmaking made me feel Graham’s turmoil as she contemplated whether or not to publish papers that would change her life in several ways.
Every role is excellently cast. Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian, a Post editor, is every bit as compelling as the major stars. Sarah Paulson is onscreen only briefly as Bradlee’s wife Toni, but she is given a key speech where she articulates for Bradlee – and the viewer – exactly how heroic Graham is being. Michael Stuhlbarg, Carrie Coon, Allison Brie and Tracy Letts all take turns attempting to steal the show in every scene they’re in.
The Post bristles with intelligence. It is not a movie that focuses on fast cars, explosions, or superheroes, but on people, and The Post is one of the more human-centric movies I’ve seen in a while. It depicts those people not as plaster saints but with flaws and all while allowing the viewer to get close to those people and to see what they see and to care about what they care about.
It goes without saying that a film that celebrates the search for truth and the freedom of the press, and the heroism of a woman who had been told that she wasn’t as good as a man for the job she held, is very timely.
I fully recommend seeing this movie. I’m ok with the Oscar nomination for Streep and would have loved seeing one for Hanks, although understand why he didn’t get it. The film certainly is worthy of its Best Picture nomination but I don’t expect to see it win.
9 out of 10