Matt Adcock reviews The Post (12A), starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks
Before being involved in reporting the Watergate scandal which brought President Nixon down, The Washington Post newspaper had already found itself in the firing line of the White House.
The Post revolves around how American military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) uncovered the murky facts behind the US government's deceptions about the futility of the Vietnam War. And rather than keeping it all to himself, he made copies of the top-secret documents which were leaked first to the New York Times and then later The Washington Post – changing the course of history.
Meryl Streep plays Washington Post owner Kay Graham, whose editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) discovers that the New York Times has scooped them once again with an explosive expose on the leaked papers. In a bold move to try and gain ground on their rival, Bradlee sets out to track down Ellsberg himself, find out the details and publish them.
The situation is complicated when by the Federal Court take out a restraining order against the New York Times that could get them all indicted for contempt and sent to jail if they publish too. It falls to Graham to make the call on whether to publish or not with pretty much everything at stake.
This is a fantastic love letter to the journalist era of 1970’s America and Spielberg really nails the period details with the cars, clothes, music and general feel. The plot takes time to build up Graham's backstory, from her personal strength following her husband’s death, through to her links with key government officials like Robert McNamara, mastermind of the Vietnam War.
The cast are uniformly excellent and the writing crackles with intelligence; there is much to ponder and chew over long after viewing. The Post is a celebration of the search for truth and the cost of the freedom of the press, an ode to an era before the internet, when newspapers formed an integral part of the social fabric.
At heart The Post is also a tale of the courage of a woman who had been told that she wasn't as good as a man for the job she held, a timely message that resonates just as much now, maybe more so.
This is a film that everyone should see. It informs, inspires and ignites the deep held human spirit for the value of exposing the truth. Recommended.