ReelBob: ‘The Post’ ★★★★
By Bob Bloom
“The Post” is a love letter to journalism, a tribute to the printed word and the power of the press.
The story, directed by Steven Spielberg, is so apropos today because such newspapers as “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post,” as well as reporters, are labeled “fake news” to obscure the canards and shortcomings of those in power.
The movie, starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and a strong supporting cast, is a celebration and a bow to those who go after stories no matter where — or how high up — they lead.
“The Post” also is a story of empowerment, in a woman making a stand and finding her voice in a world dominated by men.
The movie centers on the publication of what became known as “The Pentagon Papers,” by, at first, “The New York Times,” closely followed by “The Washington Post.”
The Pentagon Papers were reports covering the U.S. involvement in Vietnam going back to the Truman administration as well as analyses of the conflict and the likelihood of the U.S. actually winning the war.
It was 1971, a time when “The Post” was looked upon in the newspaper community as a provincial product, primarily covering the nation’s capital.
“The Post” chronicles the paper’s first steps toward national prominence.
The forces behind that climb were the paper’s executive editor, Ben Bradlee (Hanks) and publisher Katherine Graham (Streep).
Graham took control of the paper after the suicide of her husband. Graham’s family had run the paper for years, and when her father stepped down as publisher, he appointed Graham’s husband to succeed him.
One of the great pleasures of “The Post” is Streep’s performance. She begins full of self-doubts, hesitant to speak up, allowing the men on the paper’s board of directors to nearly bully her and feeling uncertain about what decisions to make and what their impact on the paper’s future might be.
At the time that “The Post” was dealing with how to handle the Pentagon Papers, Graham and her board were planning on taking the company public. And that venture might be compromised or even quashed if “The Post” published the papers.
The movie becomes a tug of war between the fiery Bradlee, pushing for publication by invoking the First Amendment and the people’s right to know how their government deceived them, and the conservative businessmen and bankers on the board, who cared only about the potential fallout from investors.
As this battle of words and ideas rages, Graham ever so slowly gains her voice and confidence, eventually siding with Bradlee.
The publication of this secret report by “The Times,” “The Post” and other newspapers was a victory for journalism and a dagger in the heart of a government that believed in burying the truth from its citizens.
What is most amazing about “The Post” is that Spielberg tells his story in about 110 minutes, zipping through all the issues like a reporter writing a concise story on deadline.
And, like a good news article, Spielberg’s direction is clear, succinct and to the point.
“The Post” could be perceived as one of Spielberg’s small movies — in a class with “Catch Me If You Can” or “Amistad.”
Its canvas is small, but the movie’s ideas and issues are gigantic and resonate as much today as when the initial story first broke in 1971.
“The Post” tells a great story, one that Americans — no, people in all nations that has movie theaters — should see. It also is a reminder of the importance of newspapers in our national discourse and how they remain a beacon that shines light on secrets that those in power may attempt to bury.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
4 stars out of 4
(PG-13), language, brief war violence