All work stops at The Washington Post when everyone feels the whole building lurch and groan. The press is running.
Steven Spielberg’s The Post recounts the story of The Washington Post, at that point a small, family owned newspaper, crashing onto the public scene as the editors attempt to publish classified White House documents on the Vietnam War. The paper owner, Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), spends much of her time agonizing over whether or not she should actually run the documents. Her social standing does not make her decision any easier. Both Katherine and Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) have been part of the high society of America for a long time. They still maintain friendships with the top members of the White House, and Katherine frequently attends and hosts parties for the U.S.elite. But as more information surfaces about the Vietnam War, they have to start asking the question: are they your friends or are they your sources?
Though the film tries its best to touch on many contemporary hot topics, it has excellent moments which pierce through those issues to deeper questions. The film juxtaposes the elite lives of the White House officials with the daily lives of normal citizens. As the newspapers gain popularity for revealing the truth to the public, the editors begin to realize their role as middleman between the public and the elite. The employees at The Post are seen living remarkably normal human lives outside the press. Katherine plays with her grandchildren, and Ben helps his daughter increase her lemonade stand profit. This human aspect of journalism transforms the act of printing into a much more meaningful event. For the employees at The Post, the newspaper justifies their existence as normal, working Americans who have a foot in both the elite and lower classes of society. The paper is their bridge. To highlight this, many of the shots within the film are simply of people carrying things back and forth in the office. From information and stories, to sandwiches and lemonade, the employees inform and support each other just as the paper does for the broader society. This culminates in the crucial moment of printing. The press moves and hums throughout the film as it does its best to keep people connected to one another.
As a whole, the film did not knock my socks off. The intriguing tension between the elite Americans and the lower classes was frequently interrupted by moments of ambiguity. The film feels like it wants to appease its viewers, and in doing so, it weakens the moments of real depth. With regards to the hot topics, it can be hard to wade through them as the plot progresses, leaving some scenes unsatisfactory. Then again, that may be the point. Journalists do have to wade through those topics; but they ultimately distract from the fundamental of the film.
Dietrich Balsbaugh is a sophomore studying English and Mathematics.