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The Real Fourth Estate

Saturday, January 13, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

The Post
Steven Spielberg
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk and others
Rating: * * * *

In these times of hype, fake news and instant journalism, there is something solid about a press procedural like The Post. With a master like Steven Spielberg at the helm, the film has a fine ensemble cast, and a plot that would have reinstated faith in the print medium, had it not been set in the past with its clackety typewriters and rotary phones.

Still, it was a time when the press took itself seriously as a guardian of society and newspapers owners as well as editors and reporters would stick their necks out to get the truth to the public.  Reminiscent of All The President’s Men, this film (already on major awards lists) has tougher story to tell and without any conventional thrill to add an edge to the solemn proceedings. That the film is edge-of-the-seat is to the credit of the director and his actors—Meryl Streep towering above them all as Katherine Graham, publisher of  The Washington Post, with her iron-lady look and demeanour.

The Post is set in the Nixon era when Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) leaked the Pentagon Papers to the country’s major newspapers, which exposed the lies the people of America had been fed about the Vietnam War.

Katharine Graham became the paper’s publisher after the suicide of her husband, Philip in 1963-a woman in power when females were not supposed to be in charge, and one who has to take a stand to go against court orders to uphold democratic values as represented by a free press. The editor of The Washington Post is Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), with the straight spine and firebrand qualities that editors of the time could have- even though there were money connections that went deep into the system. 

The film lays out the moral dilemmas and conflicts the characters go through and sustains a kind of suspense, even though the outcome is known. Never mind some sappy bits (when Graham descends the steps of court after testifying, she is watched by a bunch of awe-struck women), and the speechifying, The Post is a film that puts old-fashioned journalism on a pedestal, from which it never should have been knocked down.

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