The film The Post, although taking place in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is an extremely powerful commentary on the power and necessity of the First Amendment and freedom of the press. With outstanding performances by Meryl Streep as Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, the film highlights the importance of having transparency in government. Following the lead of films such as All the President’s Men and Spotlight, The Post takes a nostalgic approach to looking at what basic rights make America the world’s most successful democracy.
Opening up with a war scene in guerilla combat in the Vietnam War, the film flashes to Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), a whistleblower from the New York Times who systematically smuggles the Pentagon Papers, which show the corruption and purposeful misleading of the public from Eisenhower’s administration up throughl Nixon’s, out of the Times building. When the White House threatens to sue the Times for treason, it brings about a struggle for the press to determine what should and will be reported.
Meryl Streep does a great job of portraying Katherine Graham, who is in charge of running the Washington Post after her husband commits suicide, has to deal with her close relationship with former Secretary of State Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), who is explicitly implicated in the Papers, as well as the blatant misogyny of the time period. Hanks’ Bradlee, as a former friend of John F. Kennedy, also has to wrestle with his duty to inform the public and balance his relationships with people of power.
Bob Odenkirk steals the show as Ben Bagdikian, a reporter for the Post that is friends with Ellsberg and arranges the delivery of the Papers to the newspaper that is struggling to stay afloat. Once this happens, every party involved is on the hot seat, including the President of the United States. Through surveillance and limited access to the White House, both Graham and Bradlee are under the proverbial microscope of the American government.
The movie has a Mad Men-esque feel to it, with an office setting with the main reporters working around the clock to give information to the people of the country. The process of printing a newspaper during the time period is very interesting, and shows how much progress the industry has made in the last fifty years. From the top reporters to the lowest interns, it is shown how important each is, and how much is at stake for not only the individual, but the First Amendment as a whole.
The Post is very well made, and definitely gives the viewer the perspective of a reporter with an inherent duty to bring the public information that drives the machine thas the democratic republic in which we live. Rife with drama, comedy, and thoughtfulness, it flows extremely well and leaves the audience wanting more. Although, in my opinion, it falls short of its predecessors that tackle the subject of the press trying to detail the morality of transparency of government, it is extremely watchable and worth the watch. We can look forward to seeing The Post coming up a lot during awards season, and the message that it propagates is, today, as pertinent as ever.