The truth will out: 'The Post' is Spielberg's timely history lesson
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Liz Hannah, Josh Singer
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson
Genre: Drama, Biography
Rated: PG-13 for language and brief war violence
Synopsis: The story of Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female newspaper publisher in the U.S., and her decision to release the Pentagon Papers that helped to expose a government cover-up regarding the Vietnam War.
Review: There are two stories that are being told in “The Post,” the latest historical drama from Steven Spielberg. One is the day-to-day operations of a newspaper. The other is a look at Kay Graham, Meryl Streep with an undeniably Oscar-worthy performance, as she takes over publishing duties of The Washington Post following the death of her husband, Philip Graham.
Even though I have had the opportunity to work in a newspaper newsroom, I still find the decision process to be fascinating and enjoy seeing the various writers and other staff playing their parts as they push to meet printing deadlines. This aspect of the film is led by Tom Hanks’ performance as Ben Bradlee. Bradlee also serves as a bridge between the two stories that eventually intersect halfway through the film.
Of the two tales, Graham’s is more interesting as we see a woman reluctantly taking on the role of being a trailblazer and confronting the responsibility that comes with being a publisher of a major newspaper. Streep offers a complex performance that shows Graham growing into her own as the film progresses
This is not intended as a slight towards Hanks or the supporting cast that includes David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts and Carrie Coon. The cast is strong; Streep is undeniably doing the best work on the screen while Spielberg, who seems to have lost some of his luster in the eyes of some, does a masterful job of framing the scenes and keeping the story moving at a comfortable pace.
I realize that as someone who has worked in the news industry in both print and television, I am incredibly biased when it comes to the importance of the media. I also know, having been there, how news is reported. How most stories are crafted and how little personal bias makes it into the majority of what is reported.
History teaches us that governments don’t always tell the people they serve the truth. In the case of the Pentagon Papers, those guilty of covering up the worsening situation in Vietnam belonged to both political parties. Good journalists are more interested in the truth than they are in pushing their own agenda. “The Post” is a story about a group of people doing what was right, even though it was difficult and put them at odds with the White House.
Sometimes being contrarian is the most American thing a person can do.