While our leaders sold the conflict as a necessary and noble cause, we continued to engage simply because we were too stubborn to admit otherwise. How many young men died due to our arrogance?
The piece sent the Nixon white house into chaos, eventually leading to a court ordered muzzling of the Times, citing the articles as a serious national security breach. With the Times handcuffed, The Post, under the direction of newspaper heiress Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) and Post editor in chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) found itself in a precarious position; one in which the paper might not survive.
The decision would define the course of our democracy. The Washington Post could publish their own articles, challenging the authority of the government and all of its resources, or remain silent, allowing the President to control how and what information should be made available to the people, establishing what amounts to a state run press.
Spielberg does a masterful job at portraying journalists with a modicum of integrity. Reporters of the past, their hands blackened with newspaper ink, knocked on doors that would inevitably be slammed in their faces, in order to get the "scoop."
Like any industry, there was still competitiveness, but also a camaraderie. Spielberg shows us both. It's a smart play by the director who could have overdramatized the story for cinematic effect, even when we already knew how it all ends. Instead, seeing the parts of the process play out, in the sifting through piles of documents or in the shadowy meetings with potential sources, is a far more satisfying way in which to watch the film.
We know what we're getting from Hanks and Streep, and noting here that both are great in these roles should come as no shock. Hanks embraces the rolled sleeves, cigarette smoking newspaperman with full fervor. Bradlee is the true champion behind wanting to publish the articles; willing to risk everything and understanding what's really at stake. He pushes back against the authority and the lawyers advising him not to rock this boat.
Watching Graham grow from a meek, unseen presence into a strong woman with resolve, willing to take risks in the face of the patriarchy that belittles and undermines her status as a legitimate player in the business world, is inspiring. Near the end of the film, Graham exits down the stairs of the Supreme Court through a throng of admiring women, symbolic as a feminine icon in a male dominated world. The scene is quick but poignant.
The Post is an entertaining film, but nothing you wouldn't expect by combining the cast of A-listers under the guidance of Spielberg. And, as good as that is, it could also be considered it's weakness. Much like 2015's Spotlight, will we remember this a few years from now? The Post checks all of the right boxes as a true life political thriller, but doesn't do much more to stand out from similar fare.
Worth seeing for the performances and the timeliness of the subject matter, but likely to fade into obscurity over time.
4 out of 5