When I saw the film ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” I left the theatre saying, “This is definitely the best film of 2017,” but now that I’ve seen Spielberg’s “The Post” I think it’s definitely a tie.
The year is 1971. The Vietnam War is raging and we are losing. When the film opens, a man named Daniel Ellsberg (Michael Rhys) who works at the Rand Corporation smuggles out secret government documents which became known as The Pentagon Papers. These documents exposed the government’s true involvement in the Vietnam War, dating back to the Truman era. They revealed that members of our government had always known that we could not win in Vietnam, but in order to save face, they sacrificed millions of boys.
This brings us to Katharine Graham (another extraordinary performance by Meryl Streep) who was the first female publisher of a major newspaper. Graham’s father left The Washington Post to her husband, but when he died, she took control. This was definitely a big deal at the time. Don’t forget this was the early 70’s when women were still treated like second-class citizens.
The executive editor of the paper was Ben Bradlee (the excellent Tom Hanks), and even though both Bradlee and Graham wanted The Post to be great and not just a local newspaper, they had very different views on how to accomplish this. Their battles and struggles are some of the most powerful moments in the film (as well as the most entertaining).
During a Q & A at the Director’s Guild, Spielberg stated that he wanted to make this film because he was so disgusted about what is happening in this country. Of course, everyone knew who and what he was referring to. He also went on to say when asked, “Who is the intended audience for this film?,” he replied, “Anyone who has spent the last 13, 14 months thirsting and starving for the truth, and they are out there and they need some good news.”
As most of you know, Nixon tried to stop both the New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers and he took it all the way to the Supreme Court, where fortunately he lost. “The Post” is not only about freedom of the press, but it’s also the story of a very courageous woman who went against all of her male advisors to do the right thing.
The cast, including Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk and Bruce Greenwood, is excellent. “The Post,” written by 31 year-old Liz Hannah with some help by Josh Singer (“Spotlight”), is an edge-of-your seat thriller and a must-see for anyone who cares about what is happening in this country today. The audience at the screening I attended broke out in applause at least 15 to 20 times during the film. That’s how good is is.
“The Post” opens in theaters on December 22nd 2017 and do not miss it. It’s one of Spielberg’s best films in a very long time, and one of his most important.