By Nelson Rogers, Staff Writer
// The leak of the Pentagon Papers marked an iconic moment in American history—a victory for the First Amendment and a victory for the American people. And none other than Stephen Spielberg could have reconstructed these events in such an artistic, apolitical, and well-fashioned way in “The Post,” released on Jan. 12.
The film, harking back to the days of old-school journalism, is a story of The Washington Post and its rise from a local newspaper to one of a much greater and national significance. It tracks the story of the leaking and publication of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret study for future academics that revealed a convoluted history spanning numerous administrations regarding America’s engagement in Southeast Asia in what came to be known as the Vietnam War. It tells of the harrowing process and challenging choices that Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, and Ben Bradlee, the executive editor, were forced to endure as they broke away from the established relationship between the government and the press to remind Americans of the true meaning of their First Amendment rights.
Apart from the takeaways, the movie itself is an artistic masterpiece. It succeeds in conveying the thrilling aspects of journalism and politics while also managing to captivate the audience with impeccable acting and cinematography.
Though “The Post” may be seen by some as just another movie with all the big names, it instead reminds us of why these names are big in the movie world. With Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, and Spielberg directing, this film reminds viewers why those names carry the weight that they do. Despite these, the standout was Ben Odenkirk, who played Ben Bagdikian, the journalist who was able to access the Pentagon Papers after they were leaked to The New York Times, eventually printing them. Odenkirk managed to execute this role with the utmost excellence, portraying flawlessly Bagdikian, an old-school, “run around town to get the story” type of journalist.
“The Post” also serves as a reminder of the importance of our First Amendment rights. In a time when the media is forced to defend itself against verbal attacks from the current government, “The Post” reminds us of why it is so crucial that these freedoms remain, as well as what the purpose of the press really is. The movie gives insight into the challenges that modern journalism faces despite the fact it is set in the early 1970s.
Also, in the spirit of the press, “The Post” is able to tell its story in an apolitical fashion. The film manages to stay objective and does not take stances on any modern issues, with, of course, the key exception of its concrete stance on the importance of freedom of the press.
Aside from the journalistic aspects of the film, it also gives insight into the realities of the Vietnam War and the public repercussions of the Nixon and past administrations’ cover-up of the war effort. Though it does not get into the details about the causes of the war, the movie quickly cuts to the core of the consequences with regard to America.
“The Post” is playing at Century 14 in Walnut Creek and Century 16 in Pleasant Hill until Feb. 1.