Publish Or Be Damned
♦ Tripwire’s editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS takes a look at Steven Spielberg’s newspaper drama The Post starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep and out now…
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk
Spielberg is something of a phenomena as a director. While most of his movie brat contemporaries have given up the ghost, he continues to be a driven filmmaker. At the age of 71, his ardour doesn’t appear to have faded at all.
The Post is a film that deals with the sustained government cover-up that happened in the US over successive administrations to keep the truth about the Vietnam war from the American public. The Post in question is newspaper The Washington Post, edited by Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and published by widow Kay Graham (Meryl Streep). The paper is about to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange so Graham isn’t that keen on rocking the boat by reporting the allegations about the government’s Vietnam war papers. But the New York Times has already scooped the Post and Bradlee is determined to bring this to light and make his reputation as a newspaper editor. This takes place before Woodward and Bernstein and the Watergate crisis in Washington so the paper didn’t have its renowned name at this point.
Crusading journalists and editors is a theme that has been popular in Hollywood for decades and it has provided the inspiration for a number of very important films over the years, most notably All The President’s Men back in 1976. Spotlight, which was released in 2015 and won a number of Oscars, also dealt with a conspiracy that was brought to light by a newspaper.
Spielberg, Hanks and Streep have all said that with the current administration’s attempts to quash free speech, a free press and to control the press, this is a film which speaks to the time that we are living in now while using events from decades ago to point out the dangers of stifling open and honest reporting. Watching The Post, it is obvious that the filmmakers definitely have a legitimate point to make.
The Post isn’t a classic like All The President’s Men but it is a very well-made film with some exceptional performances. Hanks, who is arguably one of the most likeable actors working in Hollywood today, brings a gravitas and a humanity to Bradlee which you can’t help but warm to. Streep is okay but there is a detachment to her performance which distances the audience from her character. The rest of the cast are very good including Bob Odenkirk as beat reporter Ben Bagdikian who is at the heart of unearthing the conspiracy, Bruce Greenwood as Robert Macnamara, the former secretary of defense who has been writing the reports at the heart of this conspiracy, and Matthew Rhys from The Americans, who plays former soldier Daniel Ellsberg, who served in Vietnam so has firsthand experience of the conflict.
Spielberg is a director who understands the power of cinema and he also understands pacing and letting the actors do their job without flashy effects or intrusive editing. It is testament to his abilities that this film, which is his 56th as director, still shows off a man with something to say in his films.
At a time when the right in the US and the left in the UK are regularly demonising the press, The Post is a film that reminds us that those in power are there in the service of the people who voted them into power and that the press has a responsibility to expose facts which run counter to the pubic interest. As a former sub editor on newspapers, The Post made me smile and it also made me proud to be a journalist.
The Post is a very powerful film with a very relevant message and it needs to be seen by cinemagoers around the world.
The Post is out now in UK cinemas