Spielberg's best instinct kicks in once the question of whether to publish or not becomes the focus. Seeing those two threads intertwine in such a gripping and energetic movie, with a large cast so good that it's nearly unfair, really, is a blast. Executive editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) doesn't want to back down when the White House refuses access to the Post's reporter, though publisher Katharine Graham (Streep), a patrician socialite who travels in those rarefied social circles, urges her editor to apply a lighter touch. Inserted as a military strategist under the Pentagon's Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs John McNaughton, he's observing the war first hand. Yet, it "sent boys to die" - this they did largely to avoid the humiliation of the American defeat. Graham is already on thin ice as a woman holding unprecedented power in publishing and facing massive sexism.
"The Post" is a historical but entertaining and inspiring account of the courageous decision by Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in 1971 to publish the Pentagon Papers. Needless to say this could result in a catastrophe for the Nixon government, thus after the initial reports in the Times the U.S. government for the first time since its creation sought an injunction on the press from a federal court, and they got it.
The US Supreme Court backed the freedom of the press against the government.
Around these two, Michael Rhys (The Americans) and Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) are especially effective as the whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and Bradlee's trusted lieutenant Ben Bagdikian. He pursues the story with the purest, strongest force known to journalism - that of the scooped trying to scoop their scooper. If the Washington Post could get a copy of the government classified papers it would change the outlook of their newspaper's bottom line. Graham, the boss, is caught in the middle. Hanks is the ideal choice for a character who's juuust enough of a salty old sumbitch to keep things from turning into mushy hagiography.
Even though anyone who knows the history knows what will end up happening, the suspense is still palpable.
Stream No. 2 reveals the evolution of Graham, the rare woman running a media company, who was looked down upon by her own board.
And that's what you see in Streep's performance.
"She certainly set the bar high for anyone else who decides to run because no one can speak in less lofty terms and can adhere to principle and passion in a political campaign because we've seen that it's possible", Streep said.
The subtext of sharp women - such as Streep's Graham and Carrie Coon as Post editorial page editor Meg Greenfield - having to navigate rooms full of condescending men is deliciously on point at this moment. Spielberg is slick enough in his directing choices-and savvy enough to put together a killer cast of supporting players like Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson and Alison Brie-that it rarely feels like you're getting a lecture about the importance of an adversarial free press. "Show" partner David Cross.
What makes The Post rare and utterly engaging is the fact that it showcases the value of newspapers teaming up to unfold high-level deception and pinning down the Government to accountability even if the grave spectre of crippling financial pressures stares journalism down as a whole.
For those who don't, however, the film is instructional - right down to its quote from Justice Hugo Black's opinion in the case, a statement, that like the rest of the film strongly resonates today.
In the era of so-called "Fake News", The Post is a great reminder of the importance of a vibrant, fearless press.