Tom Hanks. Meryl Streep. Steven Spielberg. All of these award-winning factors coming together to make a film about the power of journalism. You have my attention.
Or at least, you had my attention for a small portion of “The Post.”
“The Post” feels like a strange hybrid of “Bridge of Spies” and “Argo” – Two good movies based on true events, but never really did much to impress me. “The Post” has a similar sense of something sinister hanging over our characters like “Bridge of Spies” did, while also having “Argo”‘s flair for dramatic timing and comedy to alleviate that tension. As a result, “The Post” leaves me the same impression as those two films – it is a solid, well-made film but plays things a little bit too safe.
The film chronicles the tale of the Pentagon Papers, a nearly 4,000 page manifesto that details exactly how poorly the American government was handling the Vietnam War and that we had remained there over five years after experts told the government that they could not win this war, sending thousands of young men to their pointless deaths. The film opens with a reporter leaking most of these papers to the New York Times, but the White House is quick enough to put an order out to stop anymore stories on the Pentagon Papers.
Eventually, the papers leak to other newspapers, in particular the Washington Post, run by newspaper heiress Katharine Graham (Streep) and editor in chief Ben Bradlee (Hanks). After the Times has been barred from printing more stories about the papers, Katharine is concerned about following suit, or else she’d be ruining her father and her husband’s family-friendly newspaper, but Ben believes in the freedom of the press and that American needs to know the truth, even if that means they all lose their jobs.
The main reason “The Post” works as well as it does is because of how the struggle in this film parallels what’s going on in the White House right now and how the government is trying to silence the media just to protect their own skin. This film is the ultimate weapon against those that throw around the term “fake news” like it’s an actual term and not just a way to bully others. It shows that journalism is the first and best guardian for the public, not the officials. Newspapers were created so that governments wouldn’t become too corrupt with their own power, or at the very least warn the people that the government has become too powerful. Unbiased, truthful, fair – journalism is the eyes and ears into a world we’d rather not see, but need to know about.
In that regard, “The Post” is refreshing by showing modern-day audiences the full power of the First Amendment and those who are not afraid of being silenced just because they said something that embarrasses the President. The ending to the film is worth the price of admission alone, for reestablishing that journalism is here for the governed, not the governing.
Outside of that though, this is a pretty-straight forward honest portrayal of those who struggled against the Nixon administration on more than one front. The film divides its time between the reporters and editors who broke the Pentagon Papers, and Katharine Graham and her personal struggles as she tries to decide between her personal connections and her duty as the head of a newspaper. Each of these is done fine, especially the thrilling scenes trying to get to print on time, while Hanks and Streep bring their lovable charm and charisma to the roles so that nothing ever feels too stale.
So while I applaud “The Post” for giving audiences a chance to realize that we need journalism now more than ever, I can’t really say this film does anything else spectacularly. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a solid well-made film with a thrilling climax and some fascinating character development for Katharine Graham. I respect “The Post” more than I enjoyed it. See this one not because it’s Steven Spielberg directing Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, see it to be reminded why the world still needs journalism.
Final Grade: B