A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government. Inspired by true events.
The “Pentagon Papers” were documents that were created by the U.S. Government about their political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. They were created solely for internal use within the U.S. Government but when they were leaked to the media, it caused a firestorm that had repercussions decades later. In today’s age of “fake news,” with so-called “journalists” deliberately creating propaganda-filled headlines filled with misinformation, it was very refreshing to go back in time to an era when newspapers reported the truth and reporters actually had to go out on the streets to follow up on possible leads for a story.
“The Post” is based on the true story about the first female newspaper publisher, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), who inherited The Washington Post from her husband after he committed suicide. Aided by her take-charge editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), they run the newspaper together, hand in hand but when a portion of the “Pentagon Papers” are leaked to The New York Times, Nixon’s White House demands that they not print any more of the classified papers and procures a federal court injunction, which basically forces the Times to discontinue publishing anything more about the papers. When word gets out, both Kay and Ben, as well as the rest of the world, are shocked that the President of the United States has the authority to shut down the freedom of the press. When Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk), one of the Post’s writers, is approached by Daniel Ellsberg, the man responsible for leaking the earlier documents to The New York Times, and offers him 4,000 more pages, he takes them to Ben and he decides to approach Kay about the matter. When their legal team insists that the White House technically doesn’t have the authority to stop them from running the story and Ben argues that it is their first amendment right to report to the people an understanding of their government’s policies, the choice, ultimately, lies with Kay. With many of her close associates and colleagues begging her not to publish, she decides to print the papers anyway. What happened next, was a landmark achievement for the free press.
Spielberg was always my favorite director growing up, with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” being my all-time favorite movie. After “Schindler’s List” however, Spielberg seemed to change and the lighthearted, whimsical magic he brought to many of his films, seemed to have died with that movie. While he has made some good dramas since, “Lincoln,” “Munich,” “Saving Private Ryan,” his childlike innocence was seemingly vanquished with the terrors that must have accompanied him while preparing for and, subsequently shooting, “Schindler’s List.” Streep and Hanks are in top form and play wonderfully off each other as does the rest of the cast. One of the highlights of the movie, for me, was watching the old-school letterpress machines in action, the block of type, composing sticks, bodkins, and string, this scene will probably have Millenials shaking their heads in confusion. While I have not been impressed with Spielberg for some time now, “The Post” is a welcome return for a director who seems to have achieved every filmmaking goal in the world and yet, like the Duracell Bunny, he keeps going, and going, and going…
In select theaters Friday, December 22nd