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Film Of The Week Urgent message in The Post

MARIA DUARTE recommends a resonant film on how the US government attempted to gag the press during the Vietnam war

The Post (12A)
Directed by Steven Spielberg

A MASSIVE cover-up of US government secrets. The president trying to discredit and gag the press. Women battling for equality.

The Trump administration, 2018? No, The Post is set in 1971, when President Nixon attempted to stop the publication of the controversial Pentagon Papers.

The top-secret 7,000-page report outlined how successive US governments over three decades and four presidents knew they could never win the Vietnam war. They lied to the US people and said the contrary.

At the heart of this riveting political newsroom drama, teaming up Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg for the first time, is the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post's Katherine Graham (Streep) — the first female publisher of a major US newspaper — and its relentlessly driven editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) as they play catch-up with The New York Times after they broke the story first.

With two knock-out performances by Streep and Hanks and a compelling screenplay, Spielberg delivers a slow-burning and totally enthralling old-school drama in the vein of Spotlight and All the President's Men.

What is fascinating — and hugely frustrating — is witnessing how Graham, despite her powerful position, is treated patronisingly and dismissively by the company's male board of directors just because she is a woman.

One of the most compelling and satisfying scenes is her final showdown with them over whether or not to publish, as it could jeopardise the company's plans to go public on the Stock Exchange. And it could land them in court and possibly jail — the New York Times, after all, was served an injunction stopping it from printing any further stories on the Pentagon Papers.

This captivating and thought-provoking drama also questions whether journalists and newspaper publishers can be close friends with leading politicians and still be able to do their job impartially.
It's a film that makes a trenchant case for the preservation of journalistic integrity and the maintenance of a free press to keep the government in check — a message that certainly resonates today.

Interestingly, the White House has reportedly requested a copy of the film. Oh to be a fly on that particular screening-room wall.

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