Trailer Talk: why The Post is the film we need right now
Words by Amy Wakeham
Spielberg's latest epic probes the limits of the free press – and it couldn't be more timely if it tried
Let’s face it, with fake news on the agenda and Trump’s attacks on press credibility going viral almost daily, The Post is the film every smart-thinking person has been hoping for. It was released in the UK last week, and if you’ve yet to see it, don’t hang about.
The latest hard-hitting offering from Steven Spielberg, the film explores the landmark Supreme Court battle between The Washington Post and the US government in 1971. The story goes that publication wanted to publish the leaked Pentagon Papers, which outlined the full extent of the US government’s shady actions during the Vietnam War. A furious President Nixon sought an injunction against the publication of the information, which contained the controversial news that the US government knew they would never win the Vietnam War.
As you might expect, The Post has all the promise of an award-winner. Of course, it pairs two of cinema’s starriest stars: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The duo is the front page scoop that the film itself rests on – indeed, on the film’s poster their names loom larger than the title itself. Their chemistry carries the story along, with Streep playing The Post’s proprietor and publisher Katherine Graham, and Hanks its editor, Ben Bradlee.
Then of course, it’s seriously topical; with critics proclaiming its ‘electrifying relevance’. After all, the film pits the newspaper against a corrupt government trying to cover its back – the current investigation into Trump’s collusion with Russia in the 2016 election springs to mind. It is perhaps telling that Spielberg completed The Post in just six months last year, rushing the release of the film (in the US at least) to touch the end of the first year of Trump’s tenure.
The film’s sepia tones and wide shots of bustling news rooms evoke a nostalgia for a pre-digital age, when the press was limited to the printed word. In this world newspapers were central, and news a restricted commodity. It also reflects on a media landscape that couldn’t be more different to the deluge of information and heated rhetoric we’re bombarded with today.
Even so, while eulogising the golden age of the press, The Post grapples with an eternal question: just how far should the free press go in holding the powers that be to account? As Hanks in the role of Bradlee states: ‘If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?’
The way we consume news might have changed, but the need for a free press, journalistic integrity and political accountability remains the same. The story behind The Post is as important now as it was then.