Movie Review: The Post

Jean-Paul’s rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: An appropriate movie released at the appropriate time given current events. A strong press is essential for a strong democracy.

Do you know who Daniel Ellsberg is? Well you should. It is a shame that his story is not on the tip of the tongue of every American. He exposed top secret documents exposing decades of lies and misinformation across four different Presidential administrations. You may know those documents as the Pentagon Papers. Those papers prove that we were in Vietnam for as long as we were mostly just to save face and say we have not lost a war. We sent children to die and we killed children just so we would continue to feel good about ourselves. Sure, some would consider Ellsberg a hero while others would consider him a traitor. And sure, every whistle-blower from Edward Snowden to Chelsea Manning probably did what they did with Ellsberg’s legacy in their minds. But Ellsberg taught us important lessons: A strong Executive branch is exceedingly dangerous and a robust and fearless press corp is democracy’s best check against a strong Executive branch when the Legislative branch colludes with the Executive branch. HAHAHA! I’m just kidding. We’ve learned nothing. We still love our bullies and sociopaths and our press is at best ineffective and at worst complicit.

“The Post” tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg. Well, not really. “The Post” tells the story of how weird and incestuous the press can be with politics and how even something as groundbreaking as the Pentagon Papers almost never saw the light of day partly because of that incestuous relationship. The heart of the story follows Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), the owner of the Washington Post and a woman in a good ole boy’s club. Her husband was the previous owner and she took over after his suicide. She is just taking the Post public in order to raise some money to afford some good reporters to produce good news. During all this, the Pentagon Papers falls in her lap and she has to juggle the opposing interests of her friends, like Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), her board, her investors, and her newsroom and decide whether to publish the Papers or not.

Meryl Streep absolutely steals the show and Kay Graham is an incredibly interesting character. I don’t know how true to life Streep played Graham, but all the lilts and affectations and conflicting emotions and strengths that Streep portrays Graham as having make her very worthy of the nominations she has received for this role. She is helped by Tom Hanks as Bob Bradlee, the executive editor of the Post. Watching the two of them butt heads is a delight. It is a spectacular cast all together, but Streep is easily the star.

This being the only of the Best Picture nominees I have seen, I can’t really say whether it should win or not, nor can I say whether it deserved the nomination given the field it was up against. What I can say is that “The Post” is well worth your time for its history and its story and its acting and for the mirror it shines onto present events.

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