Movie review: The Post (Spielberg)

Jason Robards is a better Ben Bradlee than Hanks

After the family got to see The Post at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in January 2018, the Daughter asked, “What’s Watergate?” That’s because the end of the movie teases about yet another journalistic crusade for the Washington Post, running into federal governmental interference.

Except, the leads of the film realize, perhaps, more complicated. Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) notes wistfully at one point that his close relationship with John F. Kennedy might have had him pulling a few punches.

Publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) is even more socially involved with the powerful. Her father, Eugene Meyer, had passed the paper down to her husband Philip Graham. When Philip committed suicide in August 1963, sordid matter only peripherally addressed in the film, Kay became titular head of the paper.

Quite telling is one scene in which the men start talking politics, and the women, including Kay, go off to chat about other things. She was good friends with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), who supported her emotionally after Philip’s death.

The rival New York Times reported a blockbuster story about an extensive, confidential report written by Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) about the United States’ failed policy in the war in Vietnam. Moreover, officials such as McNamara KNEW it was likely an unwinnable conflict. The federal government got a judge to enjoin the Times from publishing more stories.

When the Washington paper, thanks to some sleuthing by Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk), gets access to the reports dubbed the Pentagon Papers, is the DC paper bound by the Times’ legal constraints? And how will this affect the financial negotiations that Kay Graham is involved with?

The Post is a good solid film, directed by Steven Spielberg. It is unfair, though inevitable, to compare it with the Watergate-era film All the President’s Men, but one does. Jason Robards is a better Ben Bradlee than Hanks, which I have read Tom acknowledged. And it wasn’t as taut as Spotlight, the movie about the Catholic priest scandal in Boston.

Ultimately, the biggest arc takes place with Kay Graham, and a lot of that is Streep. I also loved Odenkirk.

Still, I got a little misty-eyed with joy when Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon) reads Supreme Justice Hugo Black’s opinion in the case. The movie has seemed very current, hitting on both the attack on the media and the role of women in the workplace. A must-see for a political junkie like me.