Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are an instant hit together on screen.
When you bring together two of the best actors in drama movies, you are on the right path. When you give these two talented performers a captivating story and lovable characters, you have the makings for a great movie. Add in a supporting cast chalked full of celebrities and wrap it all up with direction by Stephen Spielberg and you just might have an Oscar worthy film. That’s exactly what “The Post” is.
“The Post” takes a in-depth look at the behind the scenes of The Washington Posts’ publishing of the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers were a report from the United States government that essentially said, “The Vietnam War had essentially been lost, but we are continuing to stick around in fear of how the public would react to an American defeat.” Here’s the catch: the Pentagon Papers were sealed as high classified information so any publishing of said information would’ve had to been obtained from the government or illegally. In the case of the Pentagon Papers, they were absolutely gained illegally.
While The Washington Post weren’t the first to discover this information, the New York Times was actually first, The Washington Post did push the limits about this. After the NYT were told by a federal judge that any publishing of this information would be deemed treason, The Post was put in a sticky situation of weighing the need of information for the public against legal action from the government. And we aren’t talking “slap you on the wrist and hit you with a fine” legal action, we are talking shut down your damn newspaper and lock up the publisher and editor-in-chief in prison. Pretty heavy stuff.
The beauty of “The Post” comes from the script, plain and simple. Tom Hanks portrays Ben Bradlee, the go-getter editor-in-chief of The Washington Post, while Meryl Streep portrays Kay Graham, publisher and owner of The Washington Post. Bradlee and Graham’s dynamic on camera was incredible. The way the two characters could interact with each other on such a personal and professional level shows just how intricate it is working in the media industry. This is a parallel to other situations in the movie as well. While Bradlee would constantly remind Graham that she cannot be both friends and professionals with the people in DC, Graham had no problems checking Bradlee about his time he spent covering the Kennedy’s while he was best friends with John and Jackie at the time of their presidency. These two provided balance to each other and it was needed. The scene where Bradlee barges in on Graham’s party captivates this perfectly. After Bradlee makes a harsh, but true case about the papers, he wishes Graham a happy birthday and politely exits the house.
The thing I loved most about this movie was how much the characters’ morals were tested in the movie. Once Bob Odenkirk’s character, Ben Bagdikian, gets his hands on the hard copies of the Pentagon Papers, we see just how far these reporters were willing to go and how much they were willing to risk to publish these stories. As Bagdikian looks through the papers, he tells Daniel Ellsberg (portrayed by Matthew Rhys) that he will definitely being going to prison for how he obtained the documents. Ellsberg looks at Bagdikian and says, “Wouldn’t you go to prison to publish this?” Bagdikian simply responds,” Theoretically, yes.” Ellsberg asks if The Post will be publishing these papers to which Bagdikian responds, “Absolutely.” Ellsberg wittily responds, “So, I guess it isn’t too theoretical is it?” That stuck with me. Stealing the documents surely secured Ellsberg’s spot in prison, but it would be all for nothing if the papers never were published. On the same note, the implications of publishing such classified information would only end in courtrooms and legal action.
All-in-all, walking out of the movie theater I felt empowered (I’m a journalist, I can’t help it). Though there are little to none action scenes in the movie, the 1 hour 55 minute run time didn’t feel like it was dragging. The movie wasted no time throwing you into the situation while providing tidbits of back story to each character throughout. The characters grew and blossomed as the movie carried on and that’s a sign of a great movie.
Rating “The Post” on a scale of 1 – 10: