Steven Spielberg's "The Post" is an ode to the Fourth Estate and a look at a tumultuous time in American history. It is Liz Hannah's first screenplay. It's all about the guts-out decision to follow the Times' lead and publish more of the Pentagon Papers even after a court in NY had forced the Times to temporarily cease and desist.
It still seems to me, however, that what Spielberg loves most about this material is a nostalgia for the analogue world and all of its limitations. Seeing those two threads intertwine in such a gripping and energetic movie, with a large cast so good that it's nearly unfair, really, is a blast.
The papers they're talking about are known as the Pentagon Papers - 7,000 pages of a massive government coverup detailing how they knew the United States was losing the Vietnam War for years, but kept sending more troops anyway. As we watch its characters deal with the Nixon White House, it's hard to ignore how we, too, are living under a crooked, insecure, emotionally unstable president who will trample the Constitution to keep himself in power. In 1965, then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara knew the war couldn't be won. Yet, it "sent boys to die" - this they did largely to avoid the humiliation of the American defeat. Not only does Steven Spielberg's crisp retelling of the Pentagon Papers story call attention to journalism's highest calling, but Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham's heroic stand - having been thrust into that position - is a stirring portrait of courage during feminism's pre-Roe v. Wade era. Liz Hannah and Josh Singer's less-than-fully-formed script struggles to find the drama in "The Post", which recounts the real-life story of how a cover-up that spanned four USA presidents pushed Graham (the country's first female newspaper publisher) and Bradlee to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.
Every day in every way, Spielberg gets better and better and better. The redoubtable Streep underplays her role to mesmerising effect.
The U.S. Supreme Court decides in a 6-3 vote that the Times and the Post can publish the Pentagon Papers without risk of government censorship or punishment, with Justice Hugo Black writing: "In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely what the founders hoped and trusted they would do". Hanks plays Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee. That's especially true when you recall the more bombastic and imposing Jason Robards as Bradlee in "All the President's Men", which can be seen as the "Part Two" to this film. Graham, the boss, is caught in the middle. Also, the way the costume and set designers bring the 70s back to life is simply stunning, and all those old-school newsrooms full of typewriters and paper stacks invoke nostalgia.
49ers LB Reuben Foster arrested for marijuana possession in Alabama
Asked about that sponsorship at his introductory press conference, Foster said, "This is a new leaf and I'm not answering that". Foster played at Alabama, where he was a first-team All-America pick and won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.
Even though anyone who knows the history knows what will end up happening, the suspense is still palpable. Except for Graham, who commands a room in her social life, but struggles with nerves and pressure in the boardroom.
I encourage you to go see this movie. "How many journalists?" and she replies "twenty-five".
Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie and Bob Odenkirk make up some of the supporting cast of familiar faces.
"The Post" is kind of like the Yankees of movies. In "The Post", opening this weekend, an entire newspaper hangs in the balance as an editor and publisher seek to invoke freedom of the press. The film is expertly edited and Spielberg employs a consistently serious tone which is enlivened by the sight of Bradlee perpetually interrupting Graham's garden parties where the guests include CBS' Walter Cronkite and the humourist Art Buchwald (David Costabile) who inspired Busybee who inspired Marcellus Baptista at the Afternoon Despatch and Courier.