Review: Spielberg’s ‘The Post’


Tiffany Chen

Student journalist Nuzat Zaman reads a recent edition of ‘The Washington Post.’

If you were given the choice between losing your job in the interest of the truth, or keeping it and further perpetrating your government’s lies to the public, what would you do? This is the question posed in Steven Spielberg’s new film, ‘The Post.’ Released in theaters on December 22, it is based on the Pentagon Papers scandal of the 1970s, focusing on Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham’s perspective as a journalist revealing the truth despite the risks.

Graham, played by Meryl Streep, has to choose between holding onto her career and revealing the secrets the Nixon government has been hiding about the Vietnam war. Not only that, but as a female publisher at ‘The Post,’ Graham also faces discrimination as a woman who, in the eyes of others, “lacks the ambition and bravery to take the company a step further.” In a time when the United States’ founding values went through immense changes, ‘The Post’ recalls how the press and White House went head to head, fighting over the First Amendment.

Compared to Spielberg’s classic films like ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Jaws,’ and ‘E.T. The Extra- Terrestrial,’ ‘The Post’ takes place in a more common workplace setting. The movie begins in 1966 with Ellsberg, an analyst stationed in Vietnam during the war. The opening depicts an intense battle where a Vietnam patrol group was attacked. Gunshots ring through the the audience’s ears while watching this grisly and realistic portrayal of the violence of the Vietnam war.

In general, the storyline of the film is clear. First, Ellsberg fights in the war, and sees that conditions are not improving even with more troops. Back in the States, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara lies to the press that the war is going “better than expected” moments after Ellsberg argues that there was little to no progress. Ellsberg steals the Pentagon Papers, a classified study of the war conducted by the Secretary of Defense. The rest of the movie unfolds as a result of this one decision.

The main issue throughout the film is that Graham is losing control over her company, and publishing an article on the leaked papers may push the paper over the edge. There is also the ethical question of whether the paper’s success and advantage in the industry should be a result of exploiting a friendship and risking the employees of the company.

While the U.S. government claims success on the warfront, the study stolen by Ellsberg points out that the state of the war is deteriorating.

Until the climax of the movie, at which point Graham’s decision to print regarding the study is revealed, she has to withstand overbearing men around her telling her what she should do. After enduring a career full of holding back and silencing her voice, she finally breaks free in a male-dominated world to do what she thinks is right.

In the end, both ‘The New York Times’ and ‘The Washington Post’ are in the same situation, as they wait nervously for the response to their publication of the classified documents.

Through these tense moments, viewers are able to empathize with Graham, especially during touching moments with her daughter, where she reveals her fear and loneliness from having to handle the company and its issues alone.

In a time when the United States’ founding values went through immense changes, ‘The Post’ recalls how the press and White House went head to head, fighting over the First Amendment.

Though anyone who took high school U.S. History knows the ending of the movie, ‘The Post’ does a good job of retelling the story to give a more personal in-depth look at journalistic writing and how it plays a critical role in our democracy.

The film celebrates constitutional rights and civil liberties and encourages people to utilize their right free speech. Moreover, the outcome, although it may be expected, is portrayed such that the viewer feels a sense of relief knowing justice reigns supreme.