I’m afraid my dear reader this will be less a review and more a deep dive into my reignited passion for writing. While I only claim to be as worldly a wordsmith as Woodward and Burnstein in the quiet of my own cubicle, I know they outrank my meager talents. To further that point I’ve used a reference to two writers that don’t appear in the film. Moreover we are a paragraph in and I’ve failed to mention the flick I’m reviewing…The Post. This movie was birthed with the best cinema pedigree possible. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep leading the cast while Steven Spielberg sits behind the camera. This is the football equivalent of having Jim Brown, Dan Marino, and Vince Lombardi on the same team. (For those that disagree keep it to yourself. I’m an entertainment writer not a sportscaster.)
As is the theme of the day Meryl plays a patronized women who triumphs in the face of adversity. Those that claim she’s overrated need to get over the fact that she is nominated every year and look at the choices she makes in these roles. Streep is always bringing pathos and shedding light on the conflict just below the surface of everyday people. Her expressiveness shows us the struggle without having to stop the plot to provide exposition. She plays Kay Graham the unexpected female owner of the Washington Post during one of the nations most trying times. Her subordinate also struggling to cope with both a female and generally a “play it safe” boss is Tom Hanks. He portrays Ben Bradlee managing editor whose waiting to jump on that, make or break story.
Any plot that involves Richard Nixon needs no help to be dramatic an interesting. Tricky Dick was notorious for his war with the press and was the only President in modern times to flagrantly attempt to muzzle the press. Upon the Times release of the Pentagon Papers he sued to shut them down for endangering both the war effort and a few more complicated issues involving treason. To make the stakes clearer a government document of more than eight thousand pages containing cover-up secrets concerning four Presidents was leaked to the press. Fearing White House reprisals, which proved a justifiable concern newspapers largely left the story alone.
Ben Bradlee and Kay Graham seeing this as and indictment of the first amendment right to freedom of press published the leaked information and informed the nation of the dangers of an unchecked government. That’s the message of the movie. Allowing those in power to ride roughshod over our basic freedoms will lead to fascist control of the public. Moreover, holding the media accountable for providing a conduit to truth is a problem we face in the “Fake News” world we live in. Partisanship and the emergence of celebrity for the sake of celebrity have dumbed down the medium.
A short year after the publishing of the Pentagon Papers and a landslide reelection victory for Nixon the Washington Post would break the Watergate scandal. That was an example of hard-hitting and necessary journalism. Nixon was elected by a huge margin thanks largely to the fact that his paranoia and deviousness was then not fully understood. New additions Woodward and Bernstein would be the enquiring minds behind that story. (See how I circled around.)
To close out I think it’s important to explain that this flick was a great look at the inner workings of a newspaper. From management and deciding to risk it all on a good story down to setting the type, this flick shows it all. There are no explosions and no high-speed chase scenes just great dialogue and actors making great character choices. It’s a thinking man’s movie. So check it out!
Stay Glued to the Screen