Let’s be completely honest here, the only reason this film exists is Donald Trump. Hollywood invested a lot of time, programming, and money into making sure he didn’t win and when that didn’t happen, people kinda lost their minds. Steven Spielberg put the production of this movie on the fly because he saw “scary parallels” between The Pentagon Papers and today’s White House.
The narrative of this movie is “truth tellers” are to be believed and they are the “real heroes”. Reality is that just isn’t the case. To avoid starting an argument that will have people in the comments fighting like two seagulls over the last flopping fish, I’ll just make a blunt statement….NO ONE is above criticism or skepticism over their truthfulness, not the government, not the president, and definitely not the press.
The Post begins with a brief reenactment of the Vietnam war, one of the most traumatizing in US History. Multiple US presidents knew the efforts in Vietnam were not getting the results needed, but none of them wanted to pull out of the war and look bad so they kept it going for years. Military analyst Daniel Ellsberg photocopies classified reports documenting the progress of the war dating back to the Truman administration known as the Pentagon Papers. He leaks these documents that the war has gone poorly to The New York Times. Which causes then-President Richard Nixon to block The Times from publishing the documents. a small newspaper called The Washington Post joins the fight to get the classified documents and publish them and both organizations are dealing with a question of legality and free speech that will reach all the way to the Supreme Court.
A couple of things here to note, the details of this story are definitely exaggerated to a degree. No, Richard Nixon is not the Bond villain that he is portrayed as in the film. The Pentagon Papers actually exposed Democrat presidents before him, namely Lyndon Johnson and JFK who escalated the war that Nixon wanted to end, but the show of lies to the public could have destroyed diplomatic relations in the U.S. which is why he flip-flopped on supporting the release of the study.
Also, he never banned The Washington Post from the White House for reporting on the Pentagon Papers which the film’s ending shows. Hollywood loves to attack Nixon but the Pentagon Papers didn’t indict him. His later actions, however, broke many laws trying to cover his own ass in the events that led to Watergate. Not to mention he was 100% in the wrong for trying to silence the New York Times and later The Washington Post from reporting the story. Everything has its perspective.
Another misleading angle is the importance of Katharine Graham (Strep). Bradley Whitford’s character of Arthur Parsons, who didn’t actually exist, was created to represent those who opposed Katharine Graham is running the paper because she was a woman. Now I’ve listened to so many people praise Meryl Streep’s performance, but in all honesty, she really doesn’t do much. If anything the film is carried by Tom Hanks not only in character but performance. A lot of hype this film received was for its feminist story, but that story isn’t shown.
While it is true that Graham was in charge of the Post during the important events, her role during this time was more of circumstance than anything else. Her husband committed suicide, leaving her in charge of the organization. The concern about having a woman in charge of the paper was somewhat justified because she is portrayed as housewife put into a tough spot of controlling the family paper. In the beginning, she is shown as overwhelmed by the responsibility running the paper while trying to become a publicly traded company as well. It is not until very late where Graham takes a stand but her decision isn’t overshadowed by the work that led to her decision.
The real hard work is done by Tom Hanks’s character of Ben Bradlee, who was the editor of the paper and did the hard fighting on the ground to get a scoop that could beat the rival New York Times and save the paper. I credit the film for displaying a level of journalism that while most would prefer as long disappeared from modern times. Hanks’s presence is so strong he really relegates Steep to a supporting role by comparison. If you look at The Post as a full product, it’s a well-acted, well-directed, and an enjoyable film that doesn’t fall off in quality if you can look past some ham-fisted moments. While I can’t agree with the universal praise of Meryl Streep, I do believe the work of Hanks deserves its praise.
I’m not going to give you the Hacky recommendation of “This film is so important, especially in times like these dire times like these” This is no comparison to a president calling CNN ‘Fake News’ to 20 years of government lies that led to the deaths of millions of people. The Post, however, is an enthralling account of a time where the government needed to keep in check and in many ways still do, no matter who is in office.