Monday, January 15, 2018

Movie Review: The Post

Steven Spielberg adds another great film to his great career of producing high-quality cinema. This award contender tells a story I was almost wholly unfamiliar with and learning something new about history added to the entertainment of seeing some of the greatest actors and actresses of the generation performing under the direction of Spielberg. The story strikes relevant themes as political figures actively attack the news media as it struggles to stay relevant in a changing world. The film opens in Vietnam where Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) is conducting an academic research of the war. When Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) refuses to be honest with the American people, Daniel takes it upon himself to release the papers but smuggling them out of Rand corporation headquarters to the New York Times.

In Washington D.C., Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) deals with pushback from an antsy White House as she tries to reason with her hard-charging editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). The Washington Post editor suspects that a big reporter from the New York Times is up to something and he doesn't like reading about scoops in the morning paper of a competing news company. When they learn about the Pentagon Papers, Ben puts his best reporters including Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) on the job to obtain the report. He even asked Katherine, or Kay, to ask Robert McNamara, a close friend of hers, to give them the report. The White House sues the New York Times to file an injunction from publishing any more scoops from the study. 

The movie has a great fast pace to it that makes even simple conversations or boardroom meeting highly engrossing. Katherine employs the help of Fritz Beebe (Tracy Letts) to negotiate with the bankers as she hopes to bring her media company up for a public offering. Arthur Parsons (Bradley Whitford) does not hold back when he expresses his doubts about Katherine running the company. Her father gave the running of the company to her husband but he killed himself leaving Kay in charge. Bagdikian manages to track down Ellsberg and obtains copies of the report.  He brings them to Bradlee's house where a group of reporting including Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon), Howard Simons (David Cross), and others work to make sense of the shuffled pages. 

Ben is unsure of his legal standing in publishing so he brings in the attorney Roger Clark (Jesse Plemons) to understand the possible repercussions of publishing. Bradlee relies on his wife Tony (Sarah Paulson) to not only feed the reporters but advise him when he has doubts. Fritz is doubtful and frets for the company but the decision comes down to Kay who decides to publish in an intense phone conversation. Ben gives his reporters permission and they begin to print the paper that would display scoops from the Pentagon Papers The case went all the way to the Supreme Court but now there were papers all across the country publishing this information. The ruling is in the newspapers' favor and they go on to publish more scoops changing the national feelings towards an awful war. 

The Post shines under Spielberg's direction with big movies stars bringing these passionate characters to the screen. The movie is enjoyable in the way it lays out a national conspiracy and the newspaper process to uncover these government secrets. The ending sets up the next major crisis for the Nixon administration that would end in impeachment. In these troubling times with the current president constantly attacking the news institutions, this kind of movie strikes the right tone for how to handle these awful proclamations from the highest parts of the government with courage intsead of fear. I am looking forward to revisiting Steven Spielberg's films over the next few months as I wait for his next release this year. 

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