The Post is significant for the two largest democracies in the world. While in the US it has a role in defining transparent, scrupulous reporting as against the continuous jibe of being Fake News being levied against it by it’s premiere, in India it has to redefine it’s very ethics which have taken some battering in the recent past owing to some indiscretion and some external powers tilting it’s balance to support ideologies. Director Steven Speilberg gets veterans Tom Hanks, as The Washington Post’s editor Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as it’s publisher Katherine Graham to bring to the big screen the story of the exposing of the Pentagon Papers to the public. The Pentagon Papers were a highly confidential account of the actual ground reports of the Vietnam War which clearly showed the hopeless investments being made by the government in the war. The secrets were carefully hidden by successive presidents and the losses of lives and resources were immense.
The movie about the principle driven fourth estate of the societal set up raises a moot question which is surprisingly relevant today—does the freedom of press comes with applied conditions? Set in the 70s this story about Katherine and Ben trying to bring truth to the public is as engaging a drama as any war movie will ever be. Spielberg uses his expertise of shooting combat movies and high tension scenes to build tension within four walls. Most of the movie takes place in Newspaper conference rooms. But Spielberg’s mastery lies in his sagacious use of camera angles, wide range shots and pure conversational intensity. As an audience we can relate what the two newspaper runners were going through. History cannot be validated based on hearsay and what is fed to the public. Journalism exists because it is the history writers and commentators of the modern age.
The most noticeable part of the movie, apart from the immense acting talent on display are the techniques used to film. The camera lurks in the corner as we get to see important decisions being taken and historical journalistic research being executed. As we see Ben weigh the consequences of going against the government, we see his trusted aides rallying behind him in discharging their duties of bringing the truth to the forefront. Single shot scenes, like the introduction scene of Tom Hanks in conversation with Meryl Streep, gives the audience a measure of the acting caliber on display while at the same time establishing the characters as business partners who may or may not have the same beliefs and visions. All through the movie, the exchanges between the two leads are a treat to watch as they both recognize the immensity of the news they are uncovering and the repercussions which they may face for it.
Meryl Streep is specially powerful in her portrayal of a woman who is a bit out of place in a male dominated profession and stands her ground when the hour of reckoning comes. Although the movie chronicled the days before one of the biggest expose’ in history, Steven Spielberg gives weight to the tribulations of Katherine which ranged from as basic as voicing her opinion on an impending IPO to taking the gutsy decision of publishing the top secret papers.
Tom Hanks fits the role of the editor like a glove with his singular focus on uncovering the truth despite a lot of parties warning him against it. As an audience you rally behind him from the time he realizes that his newspaper can be much more than a local media which covers the president’s daughter’s wedding. Steven Spielberg is a master at creating tension and keeping a pulsating pace to proceedings so that even a story about a newspaper’s dilemma and ethical righteousness builds into something of an action filled film.
The Post is an ode to the classic “All the President’s Men” in many ways. The investigative journalism and the hindrances therein are essential to the story. The last shot of a security personnel reporting burglary in what became the Watergate scandal is another ode to the 1976 classic. And most importantly, the movie carries the message that journalistic freedom is of paramount importance if we need to keep a check on those who govern us.
gobblpoint: Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are directed by Steven Spielberg…..how many times will I write those names in a sentence together? Once? Go watch it now!
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