The Post ***

Timely awards contender from Hollywood heavyweights is a good drama, but don’t expect it to be an Oscar winner. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Spielberg, Streep, Hanks. A prime awards season release date. Subject matter taken from history that feels notably current. There’s no doubt 20th Century Fox hopes “The Post” leads to one thing: Oscars.

Although nominations are a possibility given the names involved, accolades will stop there. The film is a solid drama that tells a good story and is by no means a disappointment. It starts a bit sluggish, and then picks up before finishing strong. It’s just not going to make you say “wow.”

They can’t all be Oscar winners, right?

Liz Hannah and Josh Singer’s script begins in Vietnam, 1966. Military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) is there to observe at the behest of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), and things aren’t going well. He tells McNamara this, and McNamara agrees. Yet when they get off the plane in the U.S., McNamara tells the press things are going better than expected and that he’s optimistic about the progress being made.

The lies! What the American people did not know at the time, but would soon, is that McNamara commissioned Ellsberg and others to chronicle the United States’ involvement in Vietnam in what would become known as the “Pentagon Papers.” The leaking of the top-secret papers in the early ‘70s, specifically how and when they were revealed to the public, is the subject of “The Post.”

Streep plays Katherine Graham, the owner and publisher of “The Washington Post” newspaper. Hanks is Ben Bradlee, the paper’s executive editor. They don’t always see eye to eye, and they don’t have to – they share mutual respect and trust the other always has the paper’s best interests at heart. “The New York Times” gets the Pentagon Papers first, publishes an article on them and is quickly court-ordered to stop, which is viewed as government censorship. “The Washington Post” gets the Papers shortly thereafter, and in the midst of trying to sell the company Graham is faced with an unthinkable dilemma: Risk everything and protect freedom of the press by publishing articles based on the Papers, or allow the government to restrict what they can publish, which is a violation of the First Amendment.

It’s a heck of a question: Should freedom of the press take precedent over government security? On one hand the First Amendment allows the press to work for the governed, not the governors, and to hold said governors accountable. On the other hand sharing top-secret government information is treasonous and punishable by law. Where, how and when the line should be drawn between the two is imminently debatable, and makes up the thoughtful heart of the film.

Some may consider “The Post” liberal propaganda from noted Democrats Spielberg, Streep and Hanks. There’s no denying that it showcases the virtues of a free press, meaning the message to today’s audience is that a free press is valuable and the action of a politician proclaiming “fake news” should not occur.

Make of that what you will. Politics aside, though, “The Post” is a finely acted movie that gets better as it goes and tells a compelling story.

Did you know?
The film began principal photography in May 2017 and the final cut was finished in November, which is extremely fast. “This couldn’t wait,” Spielberg said, “[we had to] tell this story today.”

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