The Post Review
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, and Matthew Rhys
Freedom of the press is something that’s being discussed at quite some length at the moment. With Trump starting to sound like a broken record spouting the words “fake news” every time the press writes something even slightly negative about the current President of the free world (stories that are more often than not likely to be completely true), Steven Spielberg felt that this story of the encroachment of the press’ freedom by the US government over the publishing of papers that proved they knew they were fighting a losing battle in Vietnam was a vital one to tell and needed to be told as soon as possible.
Fast forward just under a year from when Spielberg first read The Post’s script and the film is already in cinemas and what a picture it is. I use the term ‘picture’ very deliberately here because The Post is exactly that; a proper old-fashioned picture. It’s a film that brings back memories of the classic political thrillers that actually meant something, films like All The PresidentsMen, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, JFK, The Manchurian Candidate and The Day Of The Jackal.
If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?
Yes, it’s perhaps a little bit ‘wiggy’ in parts – you can literally see the fake prosthetics, wigs and makeup at points – but Spielberg’s film is both gripping and fascinating. There are points when you think of other press-related films in The Post’s ilk – Spotlight and the aforementioned All The President’s Men (which The Post could in many ways be considered a prequel to) spring to mind. However, none of them ever really tackle the issue of freedom of the press and the government’s attempts to silence the media.
This is something that The Post tackles head-on and remarkably so. So many sides of the argument are explored here. The Post shows both what it’s like to be on the newsroom floor when a ‘huge’ (to use a Trumpism) story is about to break, but also inside the boardroom. You quickly realise that’s there’s a lot at stake here and it’s not just about printing pages of a Top Secret government document. The Post explores the financial implications of that act and also women’s position in society.
What will happen if we don’t publish? We will lose! The country will lose!
One of the things I found to be really fascinating about this film was Meryl Streep’s performance as The Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham, who was also the very first female publisher of an American newspaper. She’s never taken seriously by the men on her board and finds it very hard to get her voice heard.
Yet despite all of that, she does one of the bravest things she could have ever done by allowing Tom Hanks’ Ben Bradlee, the editor of The Washington Post, to publish those papers. This is a decision that could not only end the newspaper by bringing down the full might of President Nixon’s government upon The Post, but it’s also a decision that could land her and her entire staff in prison. It’s safe to say that the stakes here are pretty high. It’s the freedom of the press vs the government and that’s a far more compelling and important story than Batman vs Superman.
We’re talking about exposing years of government secrets.
The Post is not only a brilliantly made piece of cinema – Spielberg has an incredible ability to perfectly frame a scene and direct a gripping and moving film – but it’s also a remarkable story about an important part of our history and society. Spielberg’s decision to make this movie as quickly as possible was the correct one, certainly considering the current political climate we find ourselves in (Need I mention Trump and Brexit…).
History has an uncanny tendency to repeat itself. It’ll be interesting to see how the world reacts to a film like The Post and whether it does end up changing people’s opinion of the press and start to really value its importance in our society and democracy. We need the press to hold the government accountable for its actions. Yes, it might make mistakes sometimes, but as Steep’s Graham herself says in The Post, they try their best to get it right.