President Donald Trump’s administration is not the first to scrutinize the fourth estate. President Richard Nixon did his best to censor and control the media, and that is highlighted in Steven Spielberg’s The Post.
The Post tells the story of how Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) made the decision to print the Pentagon Papers, which revealed top government secrets about the Vietnam War.
In its most basic form, The Post is about journalism. But anyone who pigeonholes the film as just a journalism movie is not digging deep enough into its complexities.
First and foremost, The Post is Oscar bait — and the Academy took a bite. The film is a biopic directed by one of the most popular directors and starring two well-revered actors. It’s no surprise it was nominated for Best Picture. And it shouldn’t be counted out of that race because just two years ago another journalism film won: Spotlight.
At some of its deepest levels, The Post is about gender roles and how Graham broke them. Graham was the first woman to become the publisher of a major newspaper. When her dad died, he gave the company to her husband. Then her husband passed it on to her when he killed himself. Going into the decision-making process, Graham had to combat how she was taught to act as a woman and do what she thought needed to be done. The film was about empowerment and showed what women can do when they are in charge.
The film also highlighted issues with the government's attempt to stifle the press despite the First Amendment. Though the premise of the movie happened in 1971, it has echoes in today’s society. It especially rings true when voice-overs from Nixon say, “No reporter from The Washington Post is ever to be in the White House again.” The film could not have come out at a better time.
And it’s haunting when Graham and Bradlee walk through the printing room and she says, “I don’t think I could ever live through something like this ever again,” because just a few years later, The Washington Post would leak the Watergate tapes.
The film does a stand-up job with looking at the time period. It’s an overall great film and a first from the duo of Hanks and Streep. But the ending seemed rushed and the film was almost too put together. It lacked a certain character to it. It was just another Spielberg film, and it won’t be looked on as one of his best. It just doesn't stand out. Sure, it has powerful themes and really brings to light some problems in today’s society, but the film won’t age well. Not unless another president comes in to office that tries to cut off the press. Which, then again, never say never.
Correction: A previous version of this report misstated the number of years between when the Pentagon Papers were published and when the Watergate tapes were leaked. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.