Activism takes many forms and usually requires breaking the law at some point. Put simply The Post tells the story of how one man’s decision to copy classified documents and leak them to the Press.
But it is much more than that. The Post tells the story of how during the period of Nixon, the Washington Post together with the New York Times went to Court to defend the independence of the Press and expose the fake news that a number of administrations that preceded Nixon and the ended with him about America’s involvement in the Vietnam war.
Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) was a US military analyst and started to feel disaffected by all the news reports about the lies being told about the success of the Vietnams War. So, whilst working for RAND he took some of the Pentagon Papers and copied them. He then sent them to the New York Times and the Washington Post. The parallels with today are stark – Wikileaks anyone?
Back in 1969, the world was much smaller and women had a place and it certainly wasn’t running a newspaper. Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) is the owner of the Washington Post and together with her editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) go to battle against the Nixon administration. A good battle is like going into battle and boy did they go into battle. The interesting sub-plot is that of how women were viewed. Yes, Graham owned the newspaper but only because her husband died. Even though she is the brightest person in the room, in the boardroom the men ignored her opinions. Little by little, we see her find her voice. This is the story of how the provincial post became The Washington Post that broke Watergate and how a woman found her voice in a male-dominated world. Sarah Paulson as Tony Bradlee was a joy on screen albeit briefly.
What The Post will make you do is lament the quality of the news we have today and the fact that no one seems interested in a long read. The Pentagon Papers took up the first 6 pages of the New York Times – can you imagine that today.
The Post is all about sweeping themes, the bigger picture. There are moments where this is poured on too thickly. I would have liked to see more of the supporting cast.
The Post is good and has a decent pace. Surprisingly, the standout performance is from Bob Odenkirk as the bedraggled, seen it all journalist, Ben Bagdikian. Matthew Rhys as Daniel Ellsberg also gives the film a bit of meaning as the man who had the courage to originally leak the Pentagon Papers.
This is a film for now. Steven Spielberg at the European Premiere explained that 10 months ago he hadn’t even received the script. This film was shot in record time, edited and released just as Trump comes to the end of his first year as President. It’s definitely well intentioned but it does feel rushed in order to get it out within the first year of this presidency. Only the first 15 minutes of the film are classic Spielberg, the rest is just good. There are grittier and meatier films about journalism – this is no All The President’s Men. However, this is not the message of this film. The Post’s central message is beware of fake news. Ultimately, Spielberg does achieve what he set out to do and that’s to provoke critical thinking – what is truth and what is fake.
The Post opens on Friday 19 January 2018 in cinemas across the UK.
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