‘The Post’ Review: A Politically-Charged Triumph of the Press

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in The Post (2017)

This post first appeared on TV Movie Fix

One of the best period films of 2017, “The Post” shines as a glimmer of hope in these dark political times. It’s one thing to censor the media; it’s another to break away from that censorship, lay all your cards and put everything at stake. Steven Spielberg presents a glorious masterpiece on the humble beginnings of The Washington Post, especially during the Nixon era—a period where it seems to be repeating itself these days.

Merryl Streep plays Katharine “Kay” Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper. Alongside Streep is Tom Hanks as the US’s key personality for the 1960’s Pentagon Papers story and The Post’s then editor-in-chief, Ben Bradlee. Together, Kay and Ben spearhead one of the most shocking revelations to have ever hit the entire nation—that the United States government has been lying to the American people about the Vietnam War since Harry S. Truman’s time.

Tom Hanks, Philip Casnoff, David Cross, Pat Healy, Rick Holmes, Bob Odenkirk, and Carrie Coon in The Post (2017)
Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox

“The Post” establishes a unique political narrative that’s also somewhat a thriller in itself. Together with a small pool of reporters from The Washington Post, Ben faces a major responsibility of reporting the facts and discrepancies of the Nixon administration, as well as those who came before the President. It is a fantastic period drama all the more made tasteful by political catch-22s.

Streep and Hanks carry “The Post” to a place of greatness and brilliance. It’s unusual for Streep to play a character of such deference. In the first act of the film, Kay Graham is an awkward and shy socialite leader of The Washington Post. Her character builds up to an influential figure in the end, however, after being placed in a tight spot that could make or break her family legacy, which is the paper itself. Partner that with Hanks’ autocratic performance as a forward-thinking journalist, whose role as Ben Bradlee wraps it all up to a neat narrative. As Kay struggles to make her newspaper company public, Ben comes in with the valid frustrations of an editor-in-chief desperate for the paper’s growth as a leading news authority (to Ben, The Post is more than a local paper). They bicker and contradict each other most of the time (with Ben always gaining the upper hand), and it’s all pleasurable acting between the two Oscar-winning actors.

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in The Post (2017)
Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox

Spielberg accomplishes a coherent political drama in “The Post” that mixes journalism, politics, and history all in one bowl. Given our current political situation, the movie gives us a new lesson from old historical clusterfucks. A retelling of Nixon’s lies and controversial Presidential decisions, “The Post” invokes the audiences to stop and think long and hard about the truth. It shows how the country is thrown into desperation for facts and not “alternative facts,” how the political system is so flawed, that for us to function as a great nation, the Fourth Estate would have to step in and guide us to where we all should be. The movie gives us a warning that’s been going on for ages—that history is bound to repeat itself once we don’t learn the hard way.

Now, one would argue that “The Post” encourages historical revisionism, what with the blatant portrayal of inaccuracies and shocking failures of the Nixon administration and then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. However, the film comes across as a combined piece of fiction and real-life situations. Although the film doesn’t precisely state that some events were altered to fit its premise, you could immediately decipher which is based on reality and which ones are added for artistic license.

Tom Hanks, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, and John Rue in The Post (2017)
Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox
With a screenplay penned by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, “The Post” oozes with a near-accurate retelling of the events that helped The Washington Post and The New York Times cement itself as one of the greatest newspaper outfits to have helped keep our democracy in check. The film exudes writing so impressive that you can feel the tension build up and the relief set in once the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Press. I’ve never been this invested in a journalistic movie like this since the short-lived HBO series “The Newsroom.” Often, I’d just sit back and watch the events unfold, helping myself to every theme and concept introduced. But with “The Post,” I felt a foreboding sense of danger—not just for Kay and the reporters involved—as to where the premise is taking me. My frustrations over the limitations imposed upon the press and the low-key dismemberment of the First Amendment in today’s current situation is further explored. Despite the great ending, you’ll be left wondering where the media goes from here.

‘The Post’ Overall Verdict

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in The Post (2017)
Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox

That said, “The Post” comprises a well-selected cast that not only contributes vast chunks of clarity to the narrative but also makes the movie ooze with groundbreaking acting—a protein-filled performance rounding up into the finale. The scenes make up a coherent line that points you to the truth, where well-researched journalism meets the importance of fact and the press’s primary goal to serve the American people.

Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” is a timely film that echoes the plights of the contemporary press. The Pentagon Papers sparked was a defining moment for The Washington Post and The New York Times—not to mention, journalism in general. With excellent writing and fantastic 60’s visuals, the movie doesn’t stray far from what it’s all about—the loose retelling of the politically-charged triumph of the press.

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