City Press review
Movie: The Post
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks
Rating: Three stars
With the term “fake news” on everyone’s lips, The Post sees director Steven Spielberg attempt to remind people of the noble roots of American journalism.
Set in the early 70s, The Post depicts the true story of the journalists from The Washington Post and their attempts to publish the Pentagon Papers, which are classified documents regarding undisclosed information about the 30-year involvement of the US in the Vietnam War. Meryl Streep plays Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, and Tom Hanks portrays executive editor Ben Bradlee.
When they gain access to the top secret documents, they must decide whether to publish or not – an act that could put their careers and the fate of the paper at risk.
The Post is dense with Nixon-era American political history and, as a South African viewer, you might find yourself somewhat out of the loop. Luckily, you’ll be able to fill in the blanks without losing much of the plot. Some quick reading beforehand on Robert McNamara, Ben Bradlee and Katharine Graham will stand you in good stead, though.
The script is smart, the cinematography slick, and the cast’s wardrobe is sumptuous. Unfortunately, Streep’s role as a woman of moral fortitude will make some think twice as she’s been accused of not immediately speaking up against Harvey Weinstein when it came to light that he allegedly sexually harassed hundreds of women in the industry.
Spielberg has been very clear that The Post is in response to Donald Trump’s attacks on the US media; that Trump is the singular cause of a decreased trust in the press. But the truth is, Americans’ trust in the media has been sinking for the past decade, and that’s been worsened by various instances of major publications (including the Washington Post) reporting inaccurately.
If anything, The Post should be a clarion call for the US media to do better, instead of an ode to its apparent infallible nobility. I found that the film was undone by its self-congratulatory message.
Watch this beforehand
The Fog of War (2003)
Robert McNamara, the US secretary of defence in the 60s, was interviewed for about 20 hours by Errol Morris, the director of this Oscar-winning documentary. McNamara is a key figure in The Post and his insight into the Vietnam war will give you context and help you enjoy Speilberg’s movie.
The Newspaperman (2017)
This documentary, directed by John Maggio, profiles Ben Bradlee and his life as a journalist who was close friends with John F Kennedy. To understand the conflicting role he played as a friend to the Kennedys and as someone who was reporting on the White House, this doccie is compulsory viewing.