Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks publish history in 'The Post'


Chris Van Vliet: "When you sign on to do a movie that's directed by Steven Spielberg and has Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in it, are you like, 'We're probably gonna get nominated for some Oscars here?'"

This film about the Washington Post's publishing of "The Pentagon Papers" eventually works, despite Steven Spielberg's penchant for sentiment at the cost of storytelling and history.

The story begins just after Graham - with nearly no experience running a newspaper - had hired the now legendary Ben Bradlee as the newspaper's editor. In 1971, the Nixon White House didn't care for the newspaper's coverage, prompting a capricious denial of access to Tricia Nixon's wedding.

FEATURED IMAGE: Tom Hanks portrays Ben Bradlee, left, and Meryl Streep portrays Katharine Graham in a scene from The Post.

Meryl Streep plays Kay Graham, the Washington Post's owner and publisher.

"The Post" is a historical but entertaining and inspiring account of the fearless decision by Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in 1971 to publish the Pentagon Papers. The report, leaked to the Times by a former Pentagon analyst, Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), details how top officials in the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations knew the war was impossible to win, but lied to the public to keep it going at an added cost of thousands of US service members' lives. The clip of Nixon speaking about the Pentagon Papers is Nixon's actual voice, which adds to the drama and realism. But then that New York courts said to the New York Times "no". This to me is a patriotic movie. Hanks, as the Post's legendary editor Ben Bradlee, is memorably growly.

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I give The Post 5 out of 5 overpriced cups of lemonade without vodka.

There's loads of name-dropping (Bradlee recalls meals with slain Prez JFK) and former defense secretary Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) is a friend of Mrs Graham, a connection she refuses to exploit since he was the one who had commissioned the Pentagon Papers.

She's also trying to take her newspaper public by selling stock in the company, so she doesn't need any trouble that could affect the price.

Thus does "The Post" move from a crackling newsroom yarn to a showcase for Streep's now-expected brilliance. Whether this depiction is true or not - and the real-life Graham indeed confessed to a lack of self-confidence fostered by the sexism surrounding her - the screenwriters clearly see it as a dramatic necessity to tee up an eventual heroic climax of courageous conviction on Graham's part. Streep's performance is predictably sensational at capturing a woman full of self-doubt in a society still skeptical of women in positions of authority, and Spielberg employs all of his skills in shots that emphasize her insecurity: peering down at her over Bradlee's shoulder in a way that pins her in a corner, or circling her at a party like she's prey just ready to be eaten. The likes of Jesse Plemons and Zach Woods show up as lawyers on the payroll of The Post to help guide its staff in their efforts to publish a story around these leaked documents that inadvertently causes a fair amount of tension.

It's the moment when she corrects a roomful of men telling her not to publish, saying flat out that The Post is no longer her father's paper, or her husband's. Those men are represented by a Who's Who of character actors, including Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Michael Stuhlbarg and David Cross. Spielberg has said in interviews that he was searching for a way to respond, through the right story, to Trump's assaults on the free press. Because the Post is behind the curve (the New York Times got the documents first), they have to play catch-up.