The Post

Rated 4.0

Perhaps the most important journalistic battle in American history gets the Spielberg treatment in The Post, starring a stellar cast that includes Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film explores the Washington Post’s decision to print the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam in 1971, a move that raised the ire of then President Richard Nixon, and put the careers of people like paper owner Kay Graham (Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) in major jeopardy. Hanks isn’t the first movie star to play Bradlee. Jason Robards also played him in All the President’s Men, the classic film that covered the Watergate scandal. Bradlee, who died in 2014, was a journalism giant. The movie starts in 1966 with Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), a member of the State Department doing a study for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), in South Vietnam. Embedded with American troops, Ellsberg sees all sorts of atrocities and is a firsthand witness to the growing failure of American participation in the Vietnam War. His forecast about the war’s outcome is bleak, but McNamara and President Johnson—and two Presidents before him—share a rosier, false version with the American public where America is finding great success overseas. The supporting cast includes Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, the legendary TV comedians of Mr. Show. It’s a trip to see them on screen together in a Spielberg production. Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon and Sarah Paulson round out the cast. The Post is the best Spielberg offering since Munich, bringing to end one of the weaker stretches in his career that included the lackluster Lincoln, Bridge of Spies and The BFG. It’s an impressively staged account of a pivotal moment in our history and, at a time where freedom of the press is actively being challenged by a sitting president, an important movie for the present and future.