Review: The Post - a compelling reminder of the role a free press plays in a democratic society

Tom Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (as Kay Graham) star in The Post. Photo: Niko Tavernise

Tom Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (as Kay Graham) star in The Post. Photo: Niko Tavernise - Credit: Archant

Directed by Steven Spielberg and nominated for two Oscars, including Best Picture, The Post tells the story of the Washington Newspaper’s battle to publish the highly controversial Pentagon Papers which detailed the USA’s involvement in the Vietnam war and exposed a cover-up which spanned four presidents.

Staring acting heavyweights Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the film feels particularly timely given the current state of US politics.

Following a 1971 court order banning the New York Times from printing further stories based on the leaked papers, Washington Post editor Ben Bradley (Hanks) has to decide whether to fall in line with the establishment or to dig deeper into the explosive controversy.

After settling on the latter, the final decision falls to newspaper owner and publisher Katherine Graham (Streep) a woman handed the reigns to the paper after her husband’s death and someone unaccustomed to making such huge decisions.

Streep’s performance has brought her a record-breaking 21st Oscar nomination and its not hard to see why. Her performance is a master class in nuance. She expertly portrays the uncertainty behind her character’s eyes without ever over playing things. So much so that Hanks almost has to play second fiddle, but the reliable actor is still captivating as the head strong editor.

His resolve is clear to see as it emerges that the government had continued to send troops into war, despite knowing they could never win.

Support comes in the form of a Breaking Bad’s Bob Odenkirk, who plays investigative reporter Ben Bagdikian who is pivotal in uncovering further revelations and Tracey Letts who stars as Fritz, the paper’s chairman and one of Graham’s closest advisors.

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The film shares many similarities with 2016’s Oscar-winning Spotlight which also focused on a team of reporters fighting to expose a long-running cover up.

So it will come as no surprise that writer Josh Singer worked on the script of both films.

Overseen by a master director with engaging performances from some of Hollywood’s best actors, The Post is compelling throughout and a timely reminder of the crucial role a free press plays in a democratic society.