THE POST — Review by Cate Marquis
Steven Spielberg delivers a remarkable and timely film about freedom of the press, a story set in 1971 that has striking echoes for the present. President Nixon, who disdains the press, seeks to prevent publication of embarrassing secret government documents that expose decades of deceit of the American people on the Vietnam War. Continue reading…
Spielberg structures THE POST like a thriller, racing like a ticking-clock and filled with intrigue. The director has put together a stellar cast for this top-notch thriller, led by Tom Hanks as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as the paper’s publisher Katharine Graham, the first women publisher of a major daily newspaper. Known as the Pentagon Papers, a portion of this trove of documents has already been published by the New York Times, but that paper has been stopped by a court order. When the documents come to Graham and Bradlee, they are faced with the choice: publish and risk the paper, maybe even jail, or let the President silence the free press and conceal the facts from the American people.
Comparison to ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN is inevitable, and this is a worthy film to pair with that classic, but this is the story that preceded Watergate, and without which Watergate would not have happened. But this gripping fast-paced thriller also has elements in common with THE FRONT PAGE and other classic newspaper tales.
The First Amendment is not the only focus on this excellent, intelligent drama, which is one of the year’s best, but spotlights the challenges faced by publisher Katharine Graham, in the patriarchal 1970s, after she inherited the newspaper once owned by her father and then run by her late husband.
The whole ensemble cast is wonderful, as is the pacing and photography, particularly the evocative images of rolling presses. Modern audiences may be taken aback at the easy sexism that Streep’s Graham faces in nearly every scene, and impressed with the easy grace with which she handles it. The scenes between Streep as the elegant Graham and Hanks as the hard-nosed Bradlee as pure acting gold, but the whole film is sprinkled with such gems.
THE POST is one of the best films of the past year, an essential must-see, and a worthy companion piece to ALL THE KINGS MEN on the free press, but this gripping thriller has as much to say about present days as the historical moment in which it is set.