July 21, 2018

Is 'The Post' Movie Based On A True Story?

13 January 2018, 05:53 | Glen Norman

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You may know him from The Americans, but actor Matthew Rhys is a whistleblower in Steven Spielberg's The Post.

With The Post, Spielberg's skills are put to a objective: Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, the chain-smoking, gray-suited editor of the Washington Post. She is ready to take the paper from a family run business to a publicly traded company.

The decision over whether to publish becomes Graham's crucible as publisher, the chance for her to transition from flighty, anxious neophyte to stone-cold boss and power player. They race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive coverup of government secrets that spanned three decades and four US Presidents.

Nixon is president of a country divided over the Vietnam War. And these leaders lied to the American public and Congress about the war and its scope.

The first point is to understand the importance of the "Pentagon papers," a classified study that Defense Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned to detail the relationship between the USA and Vietnam between 1945-1967 for future academics to dissect. That's an understatement, of course.

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Ultimately, "The Post" is about abuse of power at the highest levels and accountability, which couldn't be more timely. The Times led the way, and the Post followed.

As history, the film is a much better portrait of a trailblazing female executive than it is of journalism.

As Graham, Streep is spectacular. Now that it's all hers, she has to push through her own insecurities and the stridency and condescension of her board of directors, in order to find herself. She seeks advice and suffers such advice when it's obvious that she's facing condescension. No, Hanks was part of the general awards conversation then, but he was passed over by the Academy. President Richard Nixon is obviously not amused. He's a seasoned editor in the Washington Post's newsroom who is exhausted of having his lunch eaten on a daily basis by the New York Times. Streep and Hanks are expected to earn nominations throughout the awards season due to their performance on the political thriller. And it's clear that Spielberg is aware of these parallels.

"We are in a fight and it's a fight not just about alternative facts but it's a fight for the objective truth", said Spielberg.

It's a lot to tackle, but naturally, Spielberg has it all well in hand and he doesn't limit his spectacular casting to Streep and Hanks.

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Casting Hanks as an indomitable force was easy; how the actor brings uncertainty and regret to Bradlee - such as being on the receiving end of a powerful lecture by his wife (Sarah Paulson) on the quiet bravery of Graham - is what gives the role depth.

That Spielberg shot and is releasing it in under a year was perhaps the only potential handicap.

It was a celebratory night for "The Post", which is seen as a major Oscar contender, but which nevertheless received no nominations from Tuesday's BAFTA Awards.

Asked about Oprah Winfrey's speech, in which she told little girls that "a new day is on the horizon", when nobody will have to say "Me Too", Hanks said: "Oprah was standing on a rock and I believe as she was speaking, out on the patio at the Hilton hotel, the pool waters actually parted and suddenly you could see the bottom and the waiters could get back and forth, take shortcuts".

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