The Post (2017)

Cast includes: Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies), Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad), Tracy Letts (The Big Short), Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days), Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
Director: Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies, Lincoln)
Genre: Drama | History (115 minutes)


Huffington Post

Vietnam 1966… “Who’s the long hair?” “It’s Daniel Ellsberg. He’s observing.” And what Ellsberg observes is very bad, indeed… bordering on hopeless. But Ellsberg later hears Robert McNamara say to the press, “I’m very pleased with our progress.” We now know this was a lie, but in 1966, few Americans knew that Vietnam was unwinnable… and that every president from Truman on knew it was unwinnable. That’s why Rand employee, Daniel Ellsberg, later decided to take binders of top-secret documents home every night and made Xerox copies. Meanwhile, in 1971, The Washington Post is at a crossroad. Without financing, the venerable newspaper will likely going under. No longer viable as a family company, Katherine (Kay) Graham and her board are looking to take the company public while retaining operational control. It’s a hard sell, given that newspapers are notoriously unprofitable. Graham is adamant that the paper needs to be able to hire and keep top-notch reporters, and give them the freedom to do their best work.

It’s a point of view shared by Post editor Ben Bradlee, of course. It’s curious that Mrs. Graham is wondering what New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan has been up to lately. “Are you thinking of hiring him?” “Oh, we could never afford him… It’s just that Sheehan hasn’t had a piece in three months.” Yes, that is curious! The Post is struggling to cover the big wedding of Nixon’s daughter after being cut from the invite list. Apparently, The Times may be on to a bigger story. Anyway, the stock deal goes forward with a 7-day cancellation clause… in the event of a catastrophe. It’s at this moment that the “Pentagon Papers” hit the front page of The Times, followed by an immediate court order to suspend publication. Post reporter Ben Bagdikian believes he knows who leaked the secret papers, and his hunch pays off. Bradlee believes The Post can pick up where The Times left off… an easy decision for him. Bradlee has a reputation for hard hitting investigative journalism, and he never doubts that information like this needed to be published. Kay Graham, on the other hand, has to weigh business and legal issues, which could take down the whole company.

As in a relay race, The Post (the movie) covers one leg of a much longer story. Although The Times took the lead, The Post defied an implicit court order intended to silence all news organizations. The Post rallied the support needed to tip the balance in favor of freedom of the press. While reporters generally push to report newsworthy stories, it’s the publisher who ultimately has to put everything on the line… and we come to understand this dynamic as events in the movie play out. The other dynamic that plays out in The Post is how women in business were treated in 1971. They were simply not seen as being capable of making important business decisions. Although The Washington Post had been in Kay’s family, it wasn’t until her husband, Phil, died that Kay became the publisher and a reluctant feminist. This film beautifully illustrates this in a very engaging narrative. Once again, we see that we can count on Steven Spielberg to tell an engaging and meaningful story. The performances are excellent, as is the script and story flow. In 1971… “They knew this was a war we couldn’t win, but they sent boys to die anyway.” It’s so much clearer in hindsight, but it’s important to remember events as they played out.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

The Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers—despite a court order— advanced freedom of the press

Popcorn Profile

Rated: PG-13
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism 
Nutshell: Freedom of the press
Language: True to life 

Social Significance: Informative & Thought Provoking

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