Movie Review: “The Post,” Set in 1971, Could Very Well Be About 2018

Riya Chopra, Staff Writer

Washington D.C., as depicted by Hollywood, tends to be an endlessly ruthless maze of dim hallways and fluorescent-lit corridors characterized by the blurry distinction between political gain and actual human decency. Steven Spielberg’s new Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated movie, The Post, is no exception. Telling the true story of the newspapers behind the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, The Post is an exceptionally well-written and superbly acted film that, although focused on decades long gone, carries heavy implications for our modern society.


The film, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as the publisher and the editor of The Washington Post in 1971, follows the true story of how they grappled with the decision of whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s. These papers, originally published by the New York Times, were illegally-obtained classified government documents pertaining to lies that the American government had been perpetuating about the true nature of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War over the course of more than a decade. When the Nixon administration filed an injunction with the Supreme Court, the Times was forced to temporarily stop publishing the Papers – and Katherine Graham, the publisher of the Post, had to decide whether or not to publish the rest herself. Much of the film hinges on Graham weighing the risks and rewards of publishing the Papers and deciding with anxiety-inducing urgency as to whether exposing decades of government lies is worth it if it means ruining her career, destroying her family legacy, and potentially putting her in jail for life.


Incredibly well-done as it is, The Post is also astonishingly accurate in its depiction of real events, which is a rarity in Hollywood. The movie stays true to its theme of telling the truth and has very little added drama or manipulated plotlines, even going so far as to use actual recordings of President Nixon instead of an actor.


Streep’s acting in particular, along with that of Hanks and Bob Odenkirk as a Post employee, is absolutely stellar, as is the writing, which is full of not only insightful comments but also the occasional laugh. The only flaw of the movie is the pace, as the plot seems to drag out unnecessarily in the middle before coming to a rushed ending. However, the underlying themes far outweigh these issues, as The Post is, above all, a social commentary on powerful themes such as feminism (regarding Graham’s position as the first female publisher of a major American newspaper) and the importance of a free press.


With its multiple nominations in both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, the title of “Best Movie of 2017” by the National Board of Reviews, and commendations by Time and the American Film Institute, The Post has rightly gained critical acclaim for its production. More notably, however, it has garnered attention for its subject matter, as although it takes place in the 1970s, the vast majority of viewers found uncanny parallels to the issues we face today. In this time of “fake news” and political upheaval, The Post strives to show us the importance of journalism and free press in our society. It reminds us that, as stated by Tom Hanks’ character of Ben Bradlee, “the only way to protect the right to publish is to publish,” and that journalists are not given the task of pleasing their government but of protecting the democratic rights of their fellow citizens. The Post is not only thrilling and engaging, but ultimately, important, as it serves as a reassurance that in times like these, the force of the people can still win out over a government that may not have their best interests at heart, and also as a reminder that it is the duty of ordinary citizens to move that force into action.