The Post tells the story of the 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers, a then top-secret Washington study of the United States’ ongoing involvement in Vietnam. Originally, the New York Times broke the story of the leaked papers– presidential lies and wrongdoings– and soon after, they were issued a cease and desist order from the Nixon administration. When famous editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) gets his hands on the documents, the paper is faced with the choice: to publish or not to publish.
However, the real story lies in the development of Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), who was the publisher of the Washington Post at the time and the first female publisher of a major newspaper. The film begins with Graham unable to assert herself as the leader of the paper, barely able to stand up to her board members, and the only woman in her field. She is understandably insecure, and Streep’s performance captures this feeling perfectly. The feeling of being an imposter, of not having the right to be in a space, that is something that not only women can identify with, but most people. Just watching Graham struggle to speak up as the only woman in the room often hit me in the soul and left me feeling like I could cry at any moment. At its core, The Post is the story of a woman finding her voice. When Graham finally asserts herself, the audience literally erupted in applause… The identification with her was so visceral!
The film is thrilling, timely and gut-wrenching. Within days of reading the script, Spielberg decided he needed to make the film, and he needed to do so this year, and rightfully so. Though it takes place over 30 years ago, the story is reminiscent of the modern battle between the government and the media. The Post renews a nostalgic faith in the media and an inspired belief in real reporting, a feeling that is hard to come by today. If anything, it emphasizes how important the truth is to the American people, and where this must come from. I also really appreciated the films ability to showcase the constant internal quarrel between finance and authentic reporting.
Though some may write off this film as unable to match up to All the President’s Men, they would be sorely mistaken. Shooting began in May, and the finished product was churned out by January. Yet, one could hardly tell. The film radiates the urgency of the newsroom, each camera movement perfect yet seemingly spontaneous. Indeed, this is actually how the film was made. Spielberg himself said that he did not go into shooting with any storyboarding, a choice I think was informed in part by necessity, but also to create an entertaining, realistic and thrilling picture. It is a phenomenal cast, balanced with all-stars and less iconic (yet still phenomenal) performers. Streep and Hanks embody the perfect duo, capturing the complexity of the alliance between Bradlee and Graham. The support of Sarah Paulson, Ben Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys, David Cross (this list goes on and on) is spot on.
Honestly, I could go on and on about what I loved about The Post. The score was incredible, the writing was impressive, the set design, the costumes… Not to mention this was Liz Hannah’s FIRST screenplay! I cannot think of anything negative to say about this film. I’m sure that in part, my adoration for this film is contextual. It was on a whim that I ventured to the festival with my mom and boyfriend to see if we could spot the stars and snag leftover seats. It was pure luck that we got in, and after watching a Q&A with the creators, of course, I had a particular investment in the film. Watching films at the PS International Film Festival always makes me so happy, the crowd is so reactive, and you know everyone there is truly appreciative of the films. However, I think that in any other viewing setting my review would stand the same. If there is a movie worth paying for, this is the one!