Millions of dollars in bribes, decades of deception, three presidencies and one big lie to the American public. Steven Spielberg’s The Post chronicles the U.S. government’s systematic cover-up of failures in the Vietnam War and the press’s struggle to uncover the truth. Head to the theater this weekend for a familiar collision of federal indiscretion and journalistic intrigue.
The year is 1971. The Vietnam War has raged for sixteen years, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of American dollars. In what soon became known as the Pentagon Papers, war analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaks top secret files to The New York Times that detail the truth of the Vietnam War. The American public has been lied to for decades, denied of the truth that the conflict in Indochina had become a lost cause. Now, the floundering Washington Post must decide whether to publish more of the Pentagon Papers and face possible annihilation at the hands of the Nixon administration. The Post is a high-stakes drama that recounts one of America’s most unsettling scandals.
Of the year’s biggest dramas, The Post touts the most prominent cast and directorship. One of Hollywood’s most accomplished directors, Steven Spielberg, returns to the big screen with an equally accomplished cast. Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, the Post’s chief editor, and Meryl Streep plays Katherine Graham, the nation’s first female newspaper publisher. Both are seamless in their roles and draw on decades of experience and dedication to their characters. They’re flanked by supporting talent that follows suit, including Sarah Paulson as Bradlee’s wife Tony and Bob Odenkirk as Post journalist Ben Badikian. While The Post remains faithful to the true story at the expense of its own vitality, its cast and directorship ensure its place among 2018’s best films.
Meryl Streep’s performance as an undaunted female in an all-male industry is the heart of The Post’s story. It is ultimately Graham’s decision to publish the story that will shock millions, and her journey from incapable heiress of the Washington Post to its confident, rightful publisher is impactful. Spielberg’s film carries this struggle for gender equality to the point of inundation at times, reminding us of the institutional and social oppression Graham faces a few too many times. Still, Streep’s performance as the embattled publisher is a must-see and is deserving of the Oscar attention that will surely come her way.
Overall,The Post tells a fascinating true story but fails to add new substance. Viewers who are passionate about freedom of the press will find Spielberg’s latest drama captivating and timely. Others that are less interested in the topic may be won over by the superb casting and deliberation. However, The Post never fully drew me in. The dilemma of whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers never distracted me from the historical fact that they were in fact published, which prevented me from fully investing in the drama unfolding on screen. The Post takes advantage of an unbelievable story but fails to recount it in a way that elevates the source material. Nonetheless, Spielberg’s latest film is a powerful story of freedom of speech and the courage to do what’s right no matter the odds. The Post comes in at a 7/10 in my book. See it this weekend for a study break you won’t regret.