Saturday, 20 January 2018

THE BIG STORY: Hard news and history collide in the well-made drama The Post

DYNAMIC DUO: Streep (as Kay Graham) and Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) in the buzzworthy new film.

IF nothing else, The Post, superbly directed by legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg, is about the tough ball game that is the newspaper business. It’s early 1970s in Washingon DC. President Richard Nixon is in the White House and the Vietnam War rages on. 

Washingon Post publisher Kay Graham (a terrific Meryl Streep) has her most challenging decision to make: will her company, her family business, be ultimately ruined if she gives the go-ahead for the paper to publish a front-page story exposing years of US government secrets, having to do with the cause and conduct of the Vietnam War? It’s an enormous risk to take.

This is highly classified information (stolen from the Pentagon) revealing that the country’s leaders long conceded that they couldn’t win the war but kept deploying soldiers to the frontlines to avoid humiliation.

The New York Times broke the story and had field days with it, but a government injunction barred that newspaper from doing any follow-ups. Playing catch-up, The Post’s team, led by feral editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), wants to score some points of their own, especially when they land the lion’s share of the leaked information.

Careers could be destroyed, but the restive public has a right to know. Right?

What plays out is a tug-o-war of conscience, ego and a thirst for the big story, combined with ideas centred on accountability and truth to power. When the Supreme Court gets involved, it all boils down to a case of freedom of the press versus government security – and the media defending its essential role in a democracy.

It’s compulsively watchable stuff, with great pacing and high-calibre acting – Streep and Hanks chewing the scenery like the pros they are. It’s also testament to Spielberg’s genius that there are hefty doses of suspense and dramatic tension to keep viewers riveted.

Penned by screenwriters Josh Singer and Liz Hannah, the film also explores women in power and the great challenges that come with keeping a newspaper, the business, profitable and at the top of its game. 

Kay Graham really had to cultivate a thick skin and, in bringing this formidable lady to life, Streep’s portrayal delivers moments that unsurprisingly hark back to her Oscar-winning triumph as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Indeed, women are the fairer sex but these women can teach you a thing or two about rolling with the punches. 

Mrs. Graham arguably delivers the most memorable line in The Post, when she tells us that, “News is the first rough draft of history. We don’t always get it right, but if we keep at it, that’s the job.” Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

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