Based on the real-life events surrounding the publication of the Pentagon Papers, The Post brings together, for the first time, three Hollywood heavyweights; Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep under the direction of Steven Spielberg. With over 30 Oscar wins and nominations between them (acting and directing), it’s a pretty exciting prospect.
It’s 1966 and a group of American soldiers are ambushed in the Vietnamese jungle. As the numerous body bags are zipped up we see military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) reporting from the front line, struggling to accept the exaggerated spin the American Government are putting on their success in the controversial conflict.
Fast forward to 1971 where Dan steals classified Government papers dating all the way back to the 1950s detailing the deception of numerous American Presidents, and their respective Governments. From violating the Geneva Convention, lying to Congress and misleading the American public several thousand documents are copied, ready to be released.
The New York Times publishes some of these papers and promptly finds itself barred from publishing any more courtesy of President Nixon. The Washington Post and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) race to find their own copies of the papers. What follows is essentially a 90-minute dilemma. To publish or not to publish, that is the question. Do they risk contempt of court and potential jail time by sticking to their journalistic beliefs and publish, or bury the story? That might sound a little pedestrian, but it’s anything but in the hands of master storyteller, Steven Spielberg who manages to wring out every ounce of tension from the proceedings – even making a conference call edge of the seat stuff.
Katherine Graham (Streep) is the owner of The Washington Post, a job she inherited due to the death of her husband and she’s regularly overruled and arguably bullied by her predominantly male colleagues. Often out of her depth she has the more interesting journey of the characters as she struggles to do what she believes to be the right thing whilst at the same time trying to appease potential investors in her company. Her sparring with the consistently brilliant Hanks is what acting enthusiasts have been waiting for, and I’m sure this won’t be their last film together.
The Post is an intriguing and impressive film with fine performances from Hanks, Streep, Bob Odenkirk and Bruce Greenwood in particular. It will, inevitably, gather Oscar buzz due to the calibre of its two stars, but I wonder would it do so if two lead actors with less clout had been cast?