The overused word that you will most likely hear when people discuss Steven Spielberg’s latest film is “timely.” It is almost impossible to watch The Post and not think of President Trump’s war on the media. Or at least what he deems as fake news.
Of course this is all by design. Judging by the speed in which this film was made it is clear that Spielberg wanted this film to make a statement.
Interestingly though, it is not the film’s stance on the necessity of a free press that is its most captivating facet. It is the way the film explores the treatment of women in male dominated industries that resonates.
During the height of The Vietnam War, The New York Times got a hold of a leaked study that, unbeknownst to then President Lyndon Johnson, was commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The study was supposed to be used as an internal record of the war, a resource to ensure America did not make the same mistakes in the future. However, these documents, informally dubbed The Pentagon Papers, also exposed many damaging truths about the government’s handling of the war.
One of the notable discoveries was that the government knew the war was a losing cause, but still sent soldiers overseas to essentially die for a senseless reason.
After the government attempted to silence the Times for publishing pages from The Pentagon Papers, which they received from whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), newspapers around the country found themselves in a bind. Do they risk jeopardizing their business to report the news and publish more pages? Or do they succumb to the legal pressures of the government. This was something that The Washington Post publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) wrestled with.
Graham in particular had a tough decision to make as she was not only the first female newspaper publisher, but also a good friend of McNamara (Bruce Greenwood).
It is through Graham’s internal conflict that allows The Post to connect with audiences. Despite the film’s sluggish start, Spielberg’s craftsmanship really shines when focusing on the way others, mainly men, try to dictate and manipulate how Graham, who inherited the paper from her father and eventually her husband, should use her power. Streep is gives a masterful performance in the film. The subtly in the way she conveys the pressures many women face once they break through the glass ceiling is nothing short of remarkable.
The rest of the ensemble cast, especially Tom Hanks and Bob Odenkirk, who plays Ben Bagdikian, rise to the challenge as well. They keep the narrative crackling at a good pace. The Post may not rank among Spielberg’s best works, the overall structure is surprisingly conventional, but it is still a strong entry from one of cinema’s best directors.