The Post: A Gripping Portrayal of the Democracy’s Uprising
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by Steven Spielberg, The Post is an important film. In comparison to the predecessors in its genre (All the President’s Men), this film isn’t legendary. In fact it holds its share of overlookable flaws as well. But it’s realistic and stirring execution teamed with the universal relevance of the issue it deals with easily puts it at the top of your must-watch list.
Set in 1971, The Post deals with one of the most crucial leaks in the American history; the release of the classified ‘Pentagon Papers’ that exposed America’s involvement in the Vietnam War between 1945 to 1967.
The film opens with the United States military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) leaking the pentagon papers to New York Times who then went on to publish a front-page article of the same in 1971. The story takes us through the perspectives of Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) the editor of Washington Post and Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), the publisher.
Mr.Bradlee is infuriated of having to constantly move behind The Times in terms of dishing out significant headlines. So, when he gets his hands on the Pentagon Papers, he proceeds with extreme urgency to publish it before The Times. The moral dilemma they face and the frenzy surrounding the publication forms the crux of the story.
Nearly forty seven years after the leak, it is appalling to note that the struggle for the freedom of press portrayed in the film is relevant even today. Through a compelling narrative and befitting technicalities, Spielberg beautifully re-establishes the importance of a press that is truly independent of political influences and corporate ownership.
Its relevance, especially in India owing to the ruling party’s hostility towards any publication of the Aadhar scandal makes this film strike a chord with your reasoning. It provokes thought and deepens the need for many more daring journalists who would choose to pursue the truth that is void of even the slightest political propaganda. The lengths these journalists in the film go through just to ensure people read the truth re-instills your faith in great journalism. Through his bold strokes in storytelling, Steven Spielberg ensures that this film takes an unapologetic stand against fascism. The story puts down the roots of a true democracy and highlights the role a press plays in sustaining such a democracy.
The aspect that makes this story all the more interesting is that fact that it is told through the eyes of The Washington Post while any quintessential Hollywood blockbuster would’ve gone with The Times instead.
Two sequences in particular are brilliant in the film. The first is the opening scene. When the U.S Military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, witnesses Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense deliver a diplomatic and falsely positive report to media on the progress America is making in bringing peace to Vietnam, his conscience leads him to leak the pentagon papers. The manner in which he reluctantly walks out of the office and the scene where he photocopies the papers are nerve wracking. It heightens the suspense and makes you nervous.
In another equally inspiring scene, Katherine Graham’s metamorphosis from a late bloomer to a liberated defender is depicted. A group of men surrounding Graham continue to speak for her; their voices almost overpower the smacking sounds of a hundred typewriters. A determined Graham shuts out this overbearing noise. Through subtle gestures and a confident body language, you can tell she’s changed. The very next moment, she picks up the fight for the freedom of press and promises not to rest until she’s won it. This mind-boggling sequence stays fresh in your mind long after you walk out of the theatre.
From the start to finish, Spielberg maintains a distinctive and vivid rhythm in the screenplay. This rhythm beautifully covers the collision of Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham’s worlds. The core character of this story expresses a state of emergency while retaining realism in such a thought-provoking manner. But most of all, the film leaves you with brimming hope for a better future.
The post isn’t entirely without flaws though. The depiction of the dramatics surrounding Bradlee’s dilemma to release the pentagon papers does not make sense. For a press as small as Washington Post was, there shouldn’t have been a conflict of interest in the first place. Even if such an interest was meant to be, Spielberg doesn’t establish enough details for it to appear convincing enough. But having said this, the flaw is easily overlookable in comparison to the otherwise impeccable and engaging narrative.
As predicted, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are brilliant in their portrayals. Streep gets into Graham’s shoes with intricate subtlety and utmost conviction. As Ben Bradlee, Tom Hanks is spectacular but his Boston accent appears to be inconsistent. The show stealer among the cast member is Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian. The manner in which he leads the team to publish the pentagon papers and the way he pursues this issue relentlessly is quite impressive.
The period setting and its visual depiction in The Post appears tremendously accurate. The director of photography, Janusz Kamiński’s retro visualscape and frame blocking is magnificent yet realistic.
On the whole, The Post is a must-watch. Sit back and let the film take over your mind with its untouched relevance and gripping depiction.