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Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks publish history in 'The Post'

13 January 2018

Which is why Steven Spielberg's drama resonates so strongly. It is Liz Hannah's first screenplay.

The movie centers around the Washington Post's publisher, played by Meryl Streep, and its editor, Tom Hanks, who have to decide whether or not to print these classified documents.

Here's a Spielberg quote in the Los Angeles Times: "I thought this was an idea that felt more like 2017 than 1971". Seeing those two threads intertwine in such a gripping and energetic movie, with a large cast so good that it's nearly unfair, really, is a blast. She also proves to be a formidable equal to her hard-charging editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks).

The Post, set in the 1970s, talks about the tense times when The Washington Post made a decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, the USA government's secret history of the Vietnam War. They are documents that prove the United States government has known for years that the war in Vietnam is not winnable and covered that fact up through four presidencies, all the while sending more young men into battle, because losing wars isn't something the U.S. does. Yet, it "sent boys to die" - this they did largely to avoid the humiliation of the American defeat.

Even though publisher Katharine "Kay" Graham (Meryl Streep) is friends with McNamara, she also understands Bradlee's perspective.

The two publishers got to know each other well after serving together for years on the board of the now-defunct American Newspaper Publishers Association beginning in the late 1970s.

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A federal court slaps the New York Times with an injunction to stop publishing the papers. He pursues the story with the purest, strongest force known to journalism - that of the scooped trying to scoop their scooper. Graham, the boss, is caught in the middle.

But the scenes in the newsroom feel flat and underwhelming, the staffers featured seemingly clueless as they struggle with what to do next.

Even though anyone who knows the history knows what will end up happening, the suspense is still palpable. In lesser hands, Graham would have come off as dithering (early in the film she removes an earring before answering the phone, such a subtle moment but it speaks volumes about who Graham is), as if she were waiting for a man to rescue her. It's become routine to see her perform flawlessly, but here she quietly gives one of her best, and most perfectly calibrated, performances.

Streep said "That speech spoke to so many people, and roused so many people because we realise how starved we are for a person who speaks, a leader who speaks and raises the best in us and asks us to live by the principles upon which our country is based".

The Post's message is similar to that of Spotlight, another champion of good journalism and victor of 2015's Best Picture: The media, for all its myriad faults, is still an important bulwark for democracy, serving as a necessary check to those elected to power as well as informing citizens and voters.

Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie and Bob Odenkirk make up some of the supporting cast of familiar faces. "Show" partner David Cross. During the course of the movie though, her character develops. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows. Both Graham, born to privilege, and Bradlee, making his way there, are complicit in this.

Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks publish history in 'The Post'