Set in 1971, Steven Spielberg’s new picture tells the story of Katharine Graham (Streep) before she became Katharine Graham, as Tom Hanks puts it. It tells the story of a corrupt president concealing information from the public and a fight between them and the press. The question is: to publish or not to publish?
Graham was the first female publisher (and owner) of a major American Newspaper (The ‘Washington’ Post), inheriting it from her late-husband. After the published a piece exposing the White House and their cover-ups about the Vietnam War spanning three decades (with help from US Military analyst Daniel Ellsberg), it was a race to see who could gather all 7,000 pages of the “most highly classified documents of the war”, resulting in one of America’s most devastating security breaches leaked out the Pentagon.
Detailing how the Papers revealed the government’s corrupt doings of the war, then-President Nixon orders an injunction against The Times from publishing the full story, leaving The Post to find the papers and cover the story which took 58,000 American lives.
If they were to publish however, not only did they risk their jobs – they risked the entire future of the paper and their freedom. Executive editor, Ben Bradlee (Hanks) and Graham both have a conversation which I think sums up their dilemma and story of the film in two perfect lines.
Bradlee: If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?
Graham: We can’t hold them accountable if we don’t have a newspaper.
Despite the endless possibility of losing everything and being held in contempt of court, they fought back against the government, standing up for journalistic integrity and freedom of the press – something Bradlee stands up for throughout whilst working alongside Graham.
Unprepared and bashing into a chair, Katharine Graham walks into a room with very little confidence in herself. Being surrounded by men who didn’t think she could run the company planted doubt into the minds of many. We then see the pinnacle of sexism rise in the newsroom but she overcomes this by evolving into a confident, independent woman – the Graham she became known for.
Spielberg’s camera angles are well executed. We always see Nixon through a narrow window in the white house with his back turned, wearing a dark suit, painting the sinister look the film needed. We often see Graham in a room surrounded by men – the only woman in fact. Another scene which shows the struggles she and many other women faced at a time they weren’t expected to work let alone run their own company was when the women would leave to talk in another room whilst the men discussed other important issues.
By overcoming mistrust and oppression, she fought back despite what was at stake. This all happens with the word “go”. It ends showing us what is to come for Nixon and the Watergate scandal.
The Post at its core is a well-scripted, emotional film which tells the tale of the war, the press, sexism and the government all in one without overly telling one side of the story. The timely parallels are hard to miss such as the US-President calling the media out and suppressing stories from being released. “Fake News” rings a bell. It’s strange how a story which happened in the 70’s is still relevant now. Although I need to warn you, Arthur WILL annoy you.
But to end on a quote from Ben Bradlee:
“The way they lied, those days have to be over”
Runtime: 1 hr 55 minutes