Saturday, 20 January 2018
The Post - review
Picture the scene. An angry, irate President of the United States is on his phone, badmouthing and threatening the nation's newspapers for publishing stories that show their decision making, character and government in bad light.
Ah, it's almost too easy isn't it.
Back in 1971, The Pentagon Papers scandal, 7000 pages of classified government documents that proved that a number of administrations had deceived the American people about the Vietnam war, saw the owner and editor of The Washington Post put everything on the line to fight for their rights under the first amendment and freedom of press. Not only to keep their paper going but for the rights of all newspapers.
Astoundingly, this is a fight that is still going on today in the era of "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts". Now, more than ever, the papers still have a duty and an obligation to hold our governments accountable. Because as editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) says "If we don't, who will?"
The decision to publish ultimately lies with the owner of the paper, Katherine "Kay" Graham (Meryl Streep) who has taken over the running of the family business. Originally passed over in favour of her husband, she assumed the role following his tragic death.
The Post might not win the big awards this year but it would certainly win the title of Most Socially Relevant Film of 2018. Even though it is based on historical fact, you couldn't have scripted a more timely and important film for the times we live in. For not only is the integrity and freedom of the press under attack but with the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the role of women in society and business is going through a period of tremendous change.
When the audience is first introduced to Kay, she is not seen as an equal by the entirely male members of the board. She has men talking over her or mansplained to on a constant basis.
Yet she finds the resolve to take ownership of her paper and decides to publish the story, no matter the cost.
Sarah Paulson, as Bradlee's wife, gives an affective and moving speech about Graham's bravery in standing up to the board and choosing to run the paper in her own way and how hard it must have been.
"When you've been told time and time again that you are not there, it's hard to believe that's not true"
It's a quote that is still resonant today and it can be applied to the woman who have courageously chosen to stand up and hold men accountable for their actions.
The most shocking thing about The Post is not the fact that some 46 years on, we are still having the same arguments about the freedom of the press or that men find the idea of a female boss astounding.
No, the most surprising fact about The Post is that it is the first time that Spielberg, Streep and Hanks have worked together. This dream team coasts along, all within their comfort zone, and while they might not be firing on all cylinders, even an average day for this trip is a great day for cinema and ultimately delivers a stirring ode to the power of the press, a wonderful nostalgic look at the old school methods that reporters had to use to find their sources and publish the news (there was no Google and no internet). It's little wonder that there are so many scenes of people anxiously waiting on or receiving phone calls.
One even wonders if Tom Hanks himself supplied all the vintage typewriters used in the Washington Post offices?
It reminds us that we have come on leaps and bounds since the Seventies but there is still a lot of vital work to do. As evidence by the final scenes where a woman is relaying the Supreme Court's verdict that "Freedom of press for the governed not the Governors", only to be shouted over by a man who has received the information by fax!
It is also admirable that Spielberg ends the film with a scene that could have served as a post credit sting setting up the Watergate scandal and a Washington Post Extended Universe linking to All The President's Men.