THE POST (2017)
Starring Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Alison Brie, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, David Cross, Jessie Mueller, Zach Woods, Pat Healy, Michael Stuhlbarg, John Rue, Carolyn McCormick, Cotter Smith and Stark Sands.
Screenplay by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer.
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13.
It is a strange coincidence that I saw a preview screening of Steven Spielberg’s new film The Post on the day after one of our most venerable news outlets, Time magazine, was sold to a media group with financial ties to conservative moneymen Charles and David Koch.
New owner Meredith, Inc. – a media company that previously specialized in lifestyle magazines like Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle – insists that the Kochs’ infusion of $650 million into the sale will not affect Time’s editorial bent, even though the Koch brothers are well known for throwing around their massive stockpile of money to try to normalize their extreme political views. No one really believes that for a second.
The mainstream media is under attack in the post-fact world of Trump, a concentrated and hazardous blitzkrieg upon one of the main checks and balances in American life. A man who lies habitually can toss out antagonistic and false terms like “fake news” and 30% of the American public will just buy into it, despite the fact that it is against their best interests, simply because he is supposedly on their “team.”
It is now more than ever of great importance to remember the true calling of a robust and impartial mainstream media. The Post is a stirring reminder of how important journalism is in American life, and how sometimes it is the only force that can hold truth to power.
The “Post” in the title of the film is, of course, The Washington Post, one of the grande dames of news-gathering in this country. It takes place during a particularly precarious point in the newspaper’s existence, in the early-1970s, soon before the paper’s breakthrough coverage of the Watergate break-in, which brought down a sitting President, Richard Nixon. (The break-in is teased in the final scene of the movie.)
At this point in history, The Post was considered one of many larger “local” papers in the country, a nice company, but lesser in scope than the news organizations (The Associated Press, Knight Ridder) or the country’s paper of record, The New York Times. It is run by socialite Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), the smart-but-inexperienced-and-insecure daughter of the paper’s founder, who had to take over when her husband, who had the job, committed suicide. And the paper is hemorrhaging money, making it necessary to take the family-owned company public just to pay the bills.
The reputation of the paper was almost single-handedly resurrected by The Pentagon Papers, a group of leaked military documents which Secretary of State Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) commissioned to give the war in Vietnam a historical perspective. However, McNamara, and the military and government in general, never imagined those papers would be made public while the war was still going on.
A sub-contracted conscientious objector named Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys of The Americans) found the documents and felt they were of vital importance to the world at large. Ellsberg fed some of the information to the New York Times, but the release was being held up in court. This was when Post editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) and his newsroom put all of their energy in contacting Ellsberg and getting more of the information, political and legal measures be damned.
Those were there – both externally and internally. No matter what you may think of whistle-blowers – like Ellsberg, or Chelsea Manning, or Edward Snowden – the whistle-blowing aspect of this film is only part of the story, though it did eventually help to bring down the President of the United States.
More importantly, though, The Post is a celebration of true journalism, not letting legal or political forces get in the way of telling the story, and also working damned hard to make sure the story you are telling is real.
It’s like the old saying: You can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.
In a world where the news media is under constant attack by the President of the United States – arguably the most powerful man in the world – movies like The Post are even more essential to remind us of the vital importance of a free, independent, investigative, vibrant press.
The fact that The Post is also a very smart, dramatic, well-acted film is just a nice bonus.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 22, 2017.