The Post is an abbreviation for Washington D.C.- based the Washington Post. Set in real-life 1971, the newspaper is in deep financial trouble and publisher Kay Graham — whose husband ran the paper and recently committed suicide — wants to take the paper public.
She needs investors to save the business.
The story begins just after Graham — with almost no experience running a newspaper — had hired the now legendary Ben Bradlee as the newspaper’s editor. She’s an indecisive socialite who mixes with Washington’s who’s who including Robert McNamara, who was President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Defense. McNamara ordered an in depth study of the nation’s strategy in Vietnam that concluded no matter what is done the U.S. will fail.
Daniel Ellsberg stole the study and released it as the Pentagon Papers. Just after the New York Times did an expose on the study, McNamara sort of leans on Graham to not do the story in her paper.
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The Post is getting nods and nominations. It is pretty good, but not good enough to get into award-win territory.
That’s unimportant anyway. What’s most important is the story. The movie is directed by Steven Spielberg. It is Liz Hannah’s first screenplay. Her co-writer Josh Singer co-wrote 2015’s Spotlight. That’s the film about the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning expose of the city’s pervert priests and won all kinds of accolades and the Oscar for best picture.
How the Pentagon Papers and some heady news work Bradlee and his staff of reporters turned the Washington Post from a so-so newspaper into a national news power is the focus of Spielberg’s film. Even better, Hannah, Singer and Spielberg use this as a venue to ask some ethics questions that are very applicable to journalism today.
The socialite Graham clearly had a conflict of interest. The film explores that in depth. A bit more subtly — and maybe pointed at journalists today — it touches on how Bradlee may have also had political conflicts of interest. He didn’t really think that deeply about his connections to powerful posts or how his personal beliefs impact the editing and focus of the newspaper.
More predictably, the movie also pokes into how many in our government — like today — tend to use their power for their own interests and not for the benefit of the people.
Meryl Streep does Graham and Tom Hanks Bradlee. Both got Golden Globe and other nominations, as did the movie. Their work is always exemplary, and the two could probably just stand and smile at the screen for two hours and get rave notices.
As always, Spielberg is a great storyteller who is never better than when doing biographical material like Schindler’s List, Bridge of Spies, Lincoln, Munich, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal and Amistad — or movies based on real-life events like Saving Private Ryan and War Horse.
In their respective years, those films were nominated and often won awards. Though you can — at times — almost smell the ink on the freshly printed newspapers, Spielberg does this one in a more paint-by-numbers fashion than director Tom McCarthy did with the nail-biting Spotlight or Alan Pakula did with the now classic Watergate thriller All the President’s Men.
When it comes to newspaper movies, I will admit I am biased. I’ve worked as a journalist most of my life and have been an avid reader of papers since I was a kid. I love newspaper movies and did even before beginning my career in journalism.
If you — like me — are a news junkie or a journalist, this is not to be missed. The rest of you ought not miss it either.
Movie name: The Post
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Bree, Matthew Rhys
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated PG-13 for some violence and language. It’s playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.