Film Review: The Post


It’s not often a film trailer captures my eye so much I’m desperate to go and see it. But, with The Post, I was captivated. Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Spielberg, the Vietnam War and Lyndon B Johnson is always a couple of hours well spent for me. But this film is not just one for the history or politics nerds, it’s one for anyone vaguely interested in those two topics, as well as power and female power in particular. After all, Meryl Streep wouldn’t be playing a weak woman, would she?

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JFK (left) and Lyndon Johnson

The Post is centred around the Pentagon Papers – classified government documents that were leaked by military analyst Daniel Ellsberg to The New York Times in 1971 which exposed decades of government lying about the Vietnam War to the American public. The papers were a study, commissioned by Defence Secretary Robert McNamara, into American involvement in the Vietnam War which the film presents excellently on screen. It shows clips of Truman, Kennedy and Johnson speaking about the war and it shows how each one of them went against their promise to keep American involvement to a minimum, instead of escalating it.

Not only does The Post show the lies of the American government and part of the counterculture formed by the Vietnam War (yes, hippies), it shows how The Washington Post came to be the most prominent paper in the leak of the papers. While The New York Times received the leak first, President Nixon silenced the papers with an injunction, meaning they couldn’t publish the material of the 400,000+ documents. Instead, The Washington Post was handed the Pentagon Papers. Enter Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

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Streep (Graham) and Hanks (Bradlee)

The Post ventures into the changing sphere of journalism here and, certainly, in my opinion, showcases journalism at its best. Streep, playing the role of Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, is presented as managing the dangers of publishing the Pentagon Papers, which could have gotten the paper – which had been in her family for decades – shut down and the duty of informing the public of government lies. Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, the executive editor, and is all for publishing, acting as a pressure on Graham, but not the determiner in her decision to publish against all the odds.

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Meryl Streep

Ultimately, The Post is a film about history, but it has parallels with the present. It is about the relationship between journalism, the people and politics and how good, honest journalism is imperative for a functioning democracy. Perhaps Trump, whose team reportedly asked for an early release copy of The Post should take note of this. The Washington Post, after all, did eventually play a huge part in the resignation of Richard Nixon – something the film just hints towards at the very end.