Film of the week: The Post

Film review: The PostThe Post is an entertaining historical drama that delivers a new and unfamiliar twist on the history of the Vietnam War and the Nixon administration.

904-the-post-634

A new and unfamiliar twist on the history of the Vietnam War

The Post

DVD, £8.95

Buy at Amazon

There are plenty of films about heroic whistleblowers or fearless journalists, but few about business leaders who put principle above profit. The protagonist of The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg, is Katharine Graham, the owner of The Washington Post.

Played by Meryl Streep, Graham attempts to turn around the fortunes of the ailing publication by floating it on the stock exchange in order to raise money for overdue investment. The problem is that as a woman in a man's world, she isn't taken seriously by the bankers or her advisers.

Shortly after her company goes public, Graham is confronted with a huge dilemma. The Nixon administration has served The New York Times with an injunction designed to prevent the publication of a leaked copy of the Ellsberg Papers, which reveal that successive governments have been lying about the US army's odds of success in Vietnam.

However, thanks to some smart detective work, editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) has managed to track down Ellsberg, who provides another copy of the report. Naturally, Bradlee is eager for the Post to go to print, both to defend free speech, but also to demonstrate that it is a serious rival to The New York Times.

Graham's advisers, however, are strongly opposed to getting involved, arguing that the bankers could use it as an excuse to pull out of the offering, while she and the entire editorial team could end up in jail for contempt of court.

To make matters worse, the revelations would ruin the reputation of her close friend Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), a former secretary of defence. Will Graham be willing to sacrifice friendship, her position as a Washington insider, and possibly the financial future of her paper (since the bankers are threatening to pull out) to reveal the truth and preserve a free press?

Even if you don't know much about American history, neither Graham's decision, nor the overall outcome, is ever in doubt from the start. It's also hard to argue that Graham was as courageous as Ellsberg, who eventually ended up facing criminal charges, or as quick-witted as Bradlee, who managed to gather a team to pick out the juiciest bits of a multi-volume report in a single afternoon. But Spielberg still does a good job of building up the tension. There is also an interesting snippet about the US newspaper industry: Graham notes that The New York Times's financial firepower stems from its local monopoly.

Overall, The Post is a strong, entertaining historical drama that delivers a new and unfamiliar twist on the history of the Vietnam War and the Nixon administration.It's easy to see why the film was nominated for Best Picture and Streep for Best Actress.

Recommended

My must-read of 2020: a page-turning biography of Keynes
Investment strategy

My must-read of 2020: a page-turning biography of Keynes

John Stepek recommends some of his favourite financial books for you to read as lockdowns continue, including a surprisingly gripping biography of the…
31 Dec 2020
Five books to put on your Christmas list
Investment strategy

Five books to put on your Christmas list

Even if they’ve done nothing else, lockdowns – in whatever guise – have given us plenty of time to read. Merryn Somerset Webb picks five books to enjo…
7 Dec 2020
Four excellent books to get your teeth into while you remain holed up
Books

Four excellent books to get your teeth into while you remain holed up

Whether you’re going on a staycation (or even an actual holiday) or remaining holed up at home. Merryn Somerset Webb has four perfect books to educate…
6 Jul 2020

Most Popular

A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: what is bitcoin?
Bitcoin

A beginner’s guide to bitcoin: what is bitcoin?

As a completely novel concept for many people, bitcoin can take a little effort to get to grips with. In the first of a short series on the cryptocurr…
1 Mar 2021
What is “yield curve control” and why is it coming to a central bank near you?
Government bonds

What is “yield curve control” and why is it coming to a central bank near you?

Central banks around the world are determined not to let interest rates go up too quickly or by too much – a practice known as “yield curve control”. …
1 Mar 2021
What to watch out for in Budget 2021
Budget

What to watch out for in Budget 2021

In his 2021 Budget, Rishi Sunak will lay out his vision for post-Covid Britain – how to fix the public finances and repay all the pandemic stimulus wi…
2 Mar 2021