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Steven Spielberg’s The Post Is Good, and It’s Not About Trump

Surprisingly, it doesn’t ignore the Caligula aspect of JFK’s White House. Unsurprisingly, Streep is magnificent.

An erratic, vindictive, tantrum-prone president. Two great newspapers trying to do their jobs in the face of his withering attacks. An epic fight over the First Amendment. 2017? No, it’s 1971, in Steven Spielberg’s eerily timed Pentagon Papers drama The Post.

 

The above will be the standard take on The Post, Spielberg’s unabashed prequel to All the President’s Men, and for good measure the hacks will note that the film’s co-star, Meryl Streep — on the strength of her January Golden Globes speech, which she devoted entirely to attacking the president — is as strongly identified with anti-Trump sentiment as any major Hollywood player. For these reasons, The Post stands to be one of the leading contenders to win the Best Picture Oscar on March 4. Academy voters who are dying to turn the ceremony into an expression of revulsion for Trump will have no better weapon this year with which to attack him.

 

Yet The Post is simply a potent newspaper thriller that could have been released in the Obama years (when it was written) or for that matter at any other point in recent decades. It offers very little in the way of actual parallels to Trump, and to Spielberg’s credit he doesn’t include any overt Trump bashing. Hysteria-prone Hollywood liberals who see the president’s likeness in every passing cloud will be thinking of him throughout the movie, but only because hysteria-prone Hollywood liberals are prone to hysteria.

 

The movie select a strange vantage point: It’s mostly about how the Post’s editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and its owner-publisher, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), tried to catch up to a story generated by the New York Times: the blockbuster series of exposés about internal Defense Department deliberations on Vietnam known as the Pentagon Papers. Shared by the Pentagon with the think tank the RAND Corporation, they were purloined from RAND’s offices by anti-war RAND analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked them to Times Vietnam reporter Neil Sheehan in an effort to discredit the Pentagon and American involvement in the war generally.

 

The Pentagon Papers revealed that public statements of U.S. officials, notably Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), were much rosier than their private assessments. Along with the Watergate cover-up that began splashing across the pages of the Post two years later, the Pentagon Papers became one of the principal reasons that many Americans began to harbor suspicions about the federal government, which they had previously trusted. Today, of course, the public trusts neither the government nor the media, but it would take a more ironically minded filmmaker than Steven Spielberg to capture that in a film.

 

The newspaper sleuthing in The Post isn’t nearly as intricate or compelling as what Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein do in All the President’s Men; one of the paper’s editors (Bob Odenkirk) simply guesses that Ellsberg, a guy he knew when he worked at RAND, is the source of the Times story, calls him up, and gets Ellsberg to provide him with a copy of the Pentagon Papers. Spielberg tries to make this look more interesting than it is, but making 50 phone calls in an effort to track down some guy’s number is the kind of thing journalists (used to) do every day.

 

Late in the movie we come to the real point: the First Amendment case that the Times and the Post were forced to pursue into the Supreme Court after the Justice Department (at the urging of Henry Kissinger more than Richard Nixon) enjoined the Times from publishing what the government insisted contained official secrets damaging to national security. In a breathless sequence in The Post, the paper’s lawyers warn that even though it has not received an injunction from the DOJ, it could be liable anyway if it obtained the Pentagon Papers from the same source as the Times, which it did.

Read more at: Steven Spielberg’s The Post Is Good, and It’s Not About Trump 

 

Sounds like a movie worth a viewing....


"FAKE 45 #illegitimate" read a sign at the Woman's March in Washington DC, January 21, 2017.
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