The Post is a 2017 American historical political thriller film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. It stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, the longtime executive editor of The Washington Post, with Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, Alison Brie, and Matthew Rhys in supporting roles.
Set in 1971, The Post depicts the true story of attempts by journalists at The Washington Post to publish the infamous “Pentagon Papers”, a set of classified documents regarding the 20-year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War (1961–1975) and earlier in French Indochina back to the 1940s and the end of World War II (1939/1941–1945).
Principal photography began in New York City in May 2017. The film premiered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on December 14, 2017, and went into limited release in the United States on December 22, 2017. It entered wide release on January 12, 2018, and grossed $179 million worldwide.
The film received positive reviews; critics praised the performances (particularly Streep, Hanks, and Odenkirk) and the film’s references and allusions to the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. The Post was chosen by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2017 and was named as one of the top 10 films of the year by Time magazine and the American Film Institute.The Post was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress (for Streep) at the 90th Academy Awards, and received six nominations at the 75th Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Actress – Drama (for Streep), Best Actor – Drama (for Hanks), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score.
In 1966, during the Vietnam War, U.S. State Department military analyst Daniel Ellsberg accompanies American troops in combat, documenting military progress for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. On the flight home, McNamara tells Ellsberg and William B. Macomber that the war is hopeless. Upon landing, however, he tells the congregated media that he has every confidence in the war effort. Ellsberg, overhearing this abrupt turn-about, becomes disillusioned. Years later, as a civilian military contractor/consultant working for the RAND Corporation (a military/defense “think tank”), Ellsberg photocopies hundreds of pages of classified reports documenting the country’s decades-long involvement in Vietnam, dating back to the Truman administration. Ellsberg then leaks these documents first to The New York Times, through reporter Neil Sheehan.
In 1971, newspaper heiress Katharine Graham tries to balance a busy social life with her responsibilities as owner and publisher for the past eight years of The Washington Post, following the suicide of her husband, the Post’s former publisher, and the death of her father. She nervously prepares for the Post’s stock market launch, a move to help financially stabilize the paper. Graham lacks journalistic experience and is frequently overruled by her domineering financial advisers and editors, including editor-in-chief (executive editor) Ben Bradlee and board member Arthur Parsons.
McNamara, a long-time friend, warns Graham that an unflattering story featuring him will be published in The New York Times, another example of the Times’ ability to get preemptive “scoops” while the Post languishes behind. The story is an exposé of the American government’s long-running deception regarding America’s position in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. However, a federal district court injunction halts the Times from publishing further articles on the subject.
Post assistant editor Ben Bagdikian tracks down Ellsberg, a former colleague, as the source for the leak. Ellsberg provides him copies of the same material given previously to the Times. Hand-picked Post reporters pore over mounds of pages, searching for additional headline stories. The Post’s attorneys advise against publishing the material, lest the Nixon administration file criminal charges. Graham confers with McNamara, Bradlee, and trusted Post chairman Fritz Beebe, as she agonizes about publishing. Bradlee tells Graham that their politician friends (including John F. Kennedy, as shown in the top-secret documents) abused their friendships by lying to them; her friendship with McNamara must not be a factor in a decision whether to publish. The situation intensifies when the Post’s lawyers discover that Bagdikian’s source is the same as the Times, possibly putting Graham in contempt of court and potentially destroying the newspaper and her family’s ownership and legacy. Alternately, if the legal challenges are overcome in court, the Post could emerge as a significant journalistic institution and increase its reputation. Graham goes ahead and says “let’s do it”.
The White House retaliates. The Post and Times jointly appear before the Supreme Court to plead their First Amendment constitutional rights. Meanwhile, other major newspapers start publishing on the secret war study in solidarity with the once isolated Post and Times. On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court’s justices, in the case of New York Times Co. v. United States, rule 6–3 in the two newspapers’ favor, vindicating Graham’s decision to print. Shortly after, President Richard Nixon demands that the Post be barred from the White House. The film ends with a sequence showing the discovery of the Watergate burglary, which was exposed by the Post and ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation.
Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham
Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee
Sarah Paulson as Antoinette “Tony” Pinchot Bradlee
Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian
Tracy Letts as Fritz Beebe
Bradley Whitford as Arthur Parsons
Bruce Greenwood as Robert McNamara
Matthew Rhys as Daniel Ellsberg
Alison Brie as Lally Graham
Carrie Coon as Meg Greenfield
Jesse Plemons as Roger Clark
David Cross as Howard Simons
Zach Woods as Anthony Essaye
Michael Stuhlbarg as A. M. Rosenthal
David Costabile as Art Buchwald
Pat Healy as Philip L. Geyelin
John Rue as Gene Patterson
Rick Holmes as Murrey Marder
Philip Casnoff as Chalmers Roberts
Jessie Mueller as Judith Martin
Stark Sands as Donald E. Graham
Michael Cyril Creighton as Jake
Brent Langdon as Paul Ignatius
Gary Wilmes as Punch Sulzberger
Christopher Innvar as James L. Greenfield
James Riordan as Vice Admiral Joseph Francis Blouin
Kelly AuCoin as Assistant Attorney General Kevin Maroney
Tom Bair as William Rehnquist (voice)
Cotter Smith as William Macomber
Jennifer Dundas as Liz Hylton
Justin Swain as Neil Sheehan
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