American journalism wins in new movie “The Post”

Review of “The Post”


A part of The Medinamite staff went to see “The Post”.

Steven Spielberg has done it once again. The famous movie director of  “Jaws”, “E.T.” and “Schindler’s List,” among other well known movies, decided to take the chance to put Liz Hannah’s script about the legendary woman who steered the ship of the Washington Post during its most important and exploding time, and make it into a remarkable movie.

Starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, “The Post” takes us back to 1971 and the battle of the Pentagon Papers that first were published by The New York Times, containing classified information about the United States’ political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The battle between the press and the White House under control of President Nixon starts when The New York Times get its hands on the documents and decides to publish them on June 13, 1971.

The movie begins with Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), the United States military analyst, as he goes on a mission to Vietnam to write reports about the status of the war. He contributes to a top-secret study, that later became known as the McNamara study. Working under the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Ellsberg becomes surprised when McNamara states to the American journalists that the war is going well, after having seen that that was not the situation. With a feeling that the people of the United States have the right to know the real story, Ellsberg decides to copy the top-secret Pentagon study. He releases the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times who publishes the documents in their newspaper.

Nixon isn’t happy about the big demonstrations that follows the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. His attorney general John Mitchell accuses The Times of violating the Espionage Act and the newspaper is ordered to stop publishing the papers. Here, the movie shows a horrible time where the White House tried to stop the press, although it was against the First Amendment. Just as President Trump, Nixon had a disrespect for the press.

Next, the movie jumps over to the life of a good friend of McNamara, no other than Katharine Graham, the owner of the Washington Post. The newspaper was back then a small, local paper that had been given to Graham after the death of her husband Phil Graham who took his life in 1963. Graham, who is brought to life by the always so sensational Meryl Streep, is about to take the company public in hope that it will stabilize their economy. Streep does a phenomenal job in impersonating the first female publisher of a major American newspaper in a time where a great number of people thought that journalism was a profession that should be ruled by men.

Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) follow the news about The Times and the Pentagon Papers from a distance until Bradlee states that he’s sick of “reading the news instead of reporting them.” With help from his reporter Ben Bagdikian, brought to life by Bob Odenkirk who brings a laugh to the audience like in many of his other work, he makes it his own mission to find the McNamara study.

The first person that Bradlee wants help from is Graham herself. With her being good friends with McNamara, Bradlee believes that she could get her hands on the study that he so desperately wants. Graham refuses to ask her good friend to be a source to the newspaper, which shows the complication of the relationships between politicians and the press. Although Bradlee becomes upset about her decision, Graham stands her ground – something that she hasn’t done earlier in the movie – and point out how Bradlee did the same thing when he was friends with John F. Kennedy. She claims that Bradlee never pushed Kennedy or used him as a source. Bradlee becomes quiet and Graham walks out of the room. Scene.

There are other sequences that also shows the character development of Katharine Graham and how she goes from being a woman who never put her foot down or talked back to the man-dominated society, to a woman who knows that she is in charge and believes in her own decision making. Streep does a significant job in illustrating how the society looked at women during the 1970s. The film captures how hard it was for a woman to be taken seriously in a workplace, or society in general, that was almost exclusively controlled by men. Being the only woman during the meetings, not having a real voice and being talked over by the men in her surroundings was a part of Graham’s everyday life.

As the movie evolves, Graham eventually finds her own voice. The journey that got her there and the scenes that shows the experiences she had in her work may be upsetting for those women who weren’t born during this time. However, this is one of the things that the movie does well. It shows the reality and we can now focus on how far we have come as a society from a time where not even a publisher and owner of a newspaper was taken seriously.

The story about how the Washington Post got their hands on the classified study after the continuous hunt by Bradlee and Bagdikian is what Spielberg is putting his main focus on in the film. Still, Graham’s decision making in whether the newspaper should publish the papers or not occupies a big part of the movie as well. It’s up to her if she wants to finish the work that The Times already started, and in this risking possible jail sentence and the loss of her beloved company.

The timing of ‘The Post” couldn’t have been better, when we now face a time where the president is trying to influence what is published in the newspapers. Spielberg saw the important message in the script and knew that the movie had to be produced. The movie truly does a extraordinary job in presenting the history of what happened during the battle over the Pentagon Papers in hope to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.