- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk
- Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins
- Rating: ★★★★
“The only way to assert the right to publish is to publish,” says Tom Hanks at one point in the film, when his character Ben Bradlee is trying to convince Katherine Graham, his boss and publisher of Washington Post, to publish the Pentagon Papers.
Steven Spielberg’s The Post comes at a time when freedom of the press and the responsibility of the media have come under scrutiny, worldwide. The film based on true events crafts an engaging account of publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee’s (Tom Hanks) decision to publish or not the top secret Pentagon Papers in their newspaper – The Washington Post.
The year is 1971 and Graham is the first female publisher of the Post. At that time The Post was a local newspaper that was given to her husband to run by Graham’s father.
Graham takes over after her husband’s suicide in a bid to keep the newspaper within the family and is almost continuously justifying her position to her detractors who feel she is not the right one for the job. She is often the only woman in a boardroom full of men – trying to hold her own. Her nervousness and self doubt is palpable as she repeatedly goes over crucial points and papers before they are discussed in boardrooms and meetings with bankers.
Bradlee, the editor, leads a team of driven, hard-nosed journalists and is rightfully a thorough believer of journalistic integrity and freedom of the press. In fact, it’s endearing to see Graham and Bradlee get into quibbles when it comes to deciding certain editorials – and Bradlee guards his turf quite seriously. Even if it happens to be a story on President Nixon’s daughter’s wedding.
While, the Washington Post at the time is clearly not at par with The New York Times, which is a bigger, more sought after publication, it doesn’t stop the duo from taking up the challenge of being the best in the business. Even if it means sending an intern across to snoop on what the Times journalists are working on. And even as Katherine sips wine with Abe Rosenthal, managing editor of the Times, she also has one eye on her competition.
But The New York Times is one up on the Post when a few explosive classified documents on the US government’s involvement with the Vietnam War make it to their front pages. While beating themselves up for missing the story, WaPo gets a chance to shine when the Supreme Court bars the New York Times from publishing any more of the documents. But can they take that chance given the possible consequences – a probable shut down of the paper and risk jail time for the editor-publisher duo.
The Post is a potent and riveting watch with stirring performances by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks that thoroughly enhance the proceedings.
Even as the film takes its time to set up the premise, one can’t really take her eyes off these two powerhouse actors. While Streep overpowers most of the cast with her dynamic presence as there is a gradual shift in the graph of her character, Hanks as the passionate and fiery Bradlee pulls off his end splendidly as well.
Spielberg masterfully brings together all the events and characters leading up to the uncovering of the full Pentagon Papers that hid the truth behind the Vietnam War from the Americans for 30 years and what follows thereafter.
The film makes a powerful statement on journalistic integrity and the crucial role of a free press in a democracy. The Post races to a moving finish – one that will make you cheer and be inspired at the same time. A definite Must Watch.
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