By: Robert Warren
Steven Spielberg`s political-thriller film The Post is about when the first female publisher of The Washington Post, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), was challenged with potentially losing her established paper to the government. That is if she publishes the top secret documents of “The Pentagon Papers,” which contains a cover-up lasting up to four decades long.
Digging into the film, when a well-known in-depth reporter for the New York Times goes quiet this causes suspicion at The Washington Post that something is up. Under suspicion that New York Times writer may be onto something, potentially a grand news story. So, the Editor from The Washington Post, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), sends intern Michael (Will Denton) running to the other publication (The New York Times) to dig up what the story may be.
Sneaking in with a package, getting on an elevator full of reporters, Michael does a sly peep over the shoulders of a Times group of reporters to see what the article is all about. The intern comes back to The Post with the answer…written across the paper is “Neil,” referencing a reporter at The Post. This isn’t good. Moments like this scene are what make this movie a must watch. It is a very intense movie with a deep focus on the ethical decisions that reporters, editors and publications may face up against.
The movie, of course, is based upon the true story of the leaking of documents to the public of the top secret Department of Defense papers named The Pentagon Papers. These documents detail the 1945 to 1967 political and military involvement in the Vietnam War. This brings the movie to the next character, Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), who photocopied The Pentagon Papers.
Sneaking into a file cabinet, Ellsberg took the documents and snuck off past the desk. Going into a quiet room and taking out the papers, Ellsberg starts scanning one by one through the entire thing of about a seven-thousand-page document. In the actual Pentagon Papers case, it took him about 18-months to complete the scanning of the documents. In the movie he cuts off the bottoms of the pages, which says “top secret” on all of the pages.
The New York Times got the documents first and quickly in the movie. So quickly they begin to push a decision to publish them as they contain secrets that are withheld from the public. Then something happens very quickly.
A woman (Sasha Spielberg) scurries into The Post with a flower skirt holding a wrapped up shoe box. She stops at the desk of reporter Jake (Michael Cyril Creighton) asking, “Excuse me…are you important?” She then drops off a rectangular package on his desk and takes off quickly scurrying out from The Post’s newsroom. Jake, stunned he has a package with something and not knowing it`s value, walks into Bradlee`s office.
Not used to having reporter Jake in the room Bradlee insists that he be left alone. Jake walks into Ben Bagdikian`s (Bob Odenkirk) office with the package. Bagdikian takes a look and leads Jake back into the room with Bradlee. When Bradlee opens the shoebox he knows the value and knows the paper has a choice, to print or not to print? That is the question.
Quickly Bradlee makes a decision to print but by the time the reporters are done writing it realizes that The Times published from them already so they don’t have anything. He is ticked. Bradlee is tired of reading the news rather than reporting it. It is just frustrating as can be for Bradlee.
Meanwhile, Graham is working on trying to get sponsorship for the Post. It seems that with a lack of sponsorship it is hard to keep reporters and could cause issues with the paper if they don’t pay attention to it. Graham works hard to gain sponsors and is trying hard to get revenue coming into the paper. She is going to events to speak and hosting some of her own to try to gain some sponsorship. It`s seeming hard to keep things going when this is such a small local paper.
After a few publications from The Times, with The Pentagon Papers it seems that the government is starting to make an attempt to get involved. After article three from The Times on the top secret documents, the government decides to make a call to action by contacting them and placing a temporary hold on publication until further notice.
The hold is a restriction put on under the idea that the hold is stopping publication of documents that could cause some immediate harm to the government. With the hold in place on The Times, editor Bradlee from The Post gets the news about the hold and wants to jump in. However, The Post doesn’t have anything as of now. They have a few more of The Pentagon Papers, but nothing much.
After a bit Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) hunts down Ellsberg to lead the Post to all of The Pentagon Papers. This scene occurs with quarters picked up and dropped in multiple pay phones in the hunt to find him to the room Ellsberg is in with the several document pages lying all over the place. The papers on the floor, the papers on the bed, the papers are everywhere. Taking a plane, Bagdikian brings the documents back to the Post in its entirety, making a call to Bradlee of the documents obtained.
Being such a large choice for what the paper should do Bradlee needs to talk to Graham since this is her family’s business at stake here. Graham is hesitant to do this as she is having to gain sponsorship and it is hard enough already. She fears risking the paper in its entirety if she were to lose a lot of sponsors because of a wrongful mistake or even risk losing her paper to the government. What could happen is uncertain in the situation she is facing and that worries her.
The Post is truly a film deserving a watch as it features strong performances by both Streep and Hanks. This film will truly engage viewers. The questions in ethics, political challenges and court handlings are all subjects of interest in this film. The Post is a strong film and definitely carries a noteworthy performance that is worth seeing.