At the time, newspapers faced significant pressure from the Nixon administration to stop publishing articles, and Hanks said there were similar issues today. (His old "Mr. Show" partner David Cross is also bumbling around the news room, which is damn delightful.) The bulk of the drama surrounds getting the Pentagon Papers and the perilous decision to publish them, which could sink the paper. "Under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), the Department of Defense commissioned a study of the United States" involvement in Vietnam, stretching from the then-current Nixon administration all the way back to the days of Harry Truman, and it details a series of withering analyses about our country's chances and could, if exposed to the public earlier, potentially saved a great deal of lives.
The period piece is about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post's first female publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). We're guessing none of them will be dropping by 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. anytime soon.
Unlike the Oscar-winning "Spotlight", which Singer also co-wrote, "The Post" isn't a subdued ode to cinematic restraint and shoe-leather reporting. "And the courage it takes to keep the First Amendment rights preserved and to respect the free press and keep it free", he said. Moreover, Graham is good friends with the people she needs to expose.
Graham inherited the Post, which her wealthy father had bought in the 1930s and passed to her husband, Philip, after Philip's death by suicide in 1963. Hanks and Streep turn in the worst performances of their respective careers - the beloved and mischievous twinkle in the former's eye has been replaced by something more akin to a look of genuine desperation, and the latter hems, haws and mutters herself into a creative corner. Hanks fares a little less well as Ben Bradlee, mainly because you can feel Hanks straining his muscles to act a little scummy and cynically, and he doesn't quite pull it off, especially given how he alters the register of his voice.
Storyteller Spielberg is his usual deft overseer, conjuring considerable suspense, compelling and inspiring us even though we know the outcome in advance.
Hanks has previously stated that he would refuse to attend a screening of the film at the White House. "I don't care who's president".
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David Cross, sporting a prodigious comb-over and stomach paunch, is almost unrecognizable as Post managing editor Howard Simons.
Oddly, the filmmakers chose not to include any scenes in which Graham confers with deputy editorial page editor Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon). It's Graham - the newspaper's publisher, not the journalist - who truly has something to lose in her decision whether or not to publish explosive material.
Those scenes demonstrate how Spielberg plays up the personal, professional and political stakes with efficiency and legibility, but in ways that occasionally risk spilling over into obviousness.
"The gray and the blue have become the blue and the red".
And, as he so often does, the director tacks on an extra ending for the benefit of the cheap seats that always come first in his calculations, subtlety be damned. "The Post" has its moments of High Spielberg Overkill, including a John Williams score that lays it on thick. "The Post" is bookended by two beauties.
History, it seems, repeats itself, with the outcome this time as yet unknown. He knew this was a special project, and while he hesitated to take on a gig that would have him work yet again on a journalism movie, he knew Hannah had created something decidedly different from the journalistic procedural that earned him an Academy Award in 2016.