The Post (M)

In a Word: Classy

The Post

Tom Hanks played The Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep plays publisher Katharine Graham in The Post.

 

"With names like Spielberg, Hanks and Streep attached to this film, expectations were high and they weren't disappointed. Finely acted, well crafted and tackling issues which remain as important today as they were then, this film is a class act."

It's hard for us living in the post-Pentagon Papers, post-Watergate era to fully appreciate just how shocking and ground-breaking these stories were at the time. In the internet age, it seems we're confronted with a major new scandal every 24 hour news cycle, so much so that we've become more and more inured to the idea - presented in this Steven Spielberg take on the events surrounding the publication of the Pentagon Papers - that politicians might not always tell the truth.

Yet The Post does a good job of conveying the impact and importance of what the revelations contained in the leaked documents meant to a country that was engaged in an "unwinnable" war in Indo-China. That, however, is not the main thrust of this film. Rather than focusing on what the publication of the documents meant - the aftermath if you like, The Post focuses its attention on the process that lead up to their publication and, in particular, the decision The Washington Post publisher Katherine 'Kay' Graham (here played by Meryl Streep) had to weigh up in whether to publish or not.

Let me explain. The Pentagon Papers were a top secret history of America's involvement in Vietnam spanning the period from 1945 to 1967 commissioned by the former US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood). In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), who had worked on the study, leaked them to The New York Times, which then ran a series of stories on the revelations contained in the papers before the US Government had further publication temporarily halted through a court injunction.

Tired of being beaten to the scoop but the country's pre-eminent paper, the film shows how The Washington Post's managing editor Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks) saw his chance to get in on what was a hugely important national story. Much of the plot is then spent on the at times fraught relationship between Mr Bradlee and Mrs Graham, the third generation owner of her family's company who had only been given the reins when her husband had committed suicide, as they grapple with the story.

The film aptly illustrates how the decision to publish carried with it great personal risks for Mrs Graham - her family fortune and company, not to mention her own liberty, were on the table given the nature of the documents involved. And, in a theme that's sure to resonate with contemporary viewers, it also shows how she had to stand up in the face of rampant boardroom sexism. In a sense the whole film is a celebration of this remarkable woman and the courage she found at a critical period in the history of the US.

With names like Spielberg, Hanks and Streep attached to this film, expectations were high and they weren't disappointed. Finely acted, well crafted and tackling issues which remain as important today as they were then, this film is a class act.