Whether intentionally or not, this film arrives at a timely moment. Director Steven Spielberg choosing his moment to prod the hornet’s nest or at least remind people of what is at stake, when those in power presume to be above the law.
“Kay Graham” (Meryl Streep) is the socialite owner of the Washington Post (WAPO), a local paper bequeathed to her following her husband’s untimely death.
In the initial scenes, clearly owning a newspaper seems like a heck of a lot of fun.
Dedicated hard bitten journalists “Ben Bradley” (Tom Hanks) and “Ben Badikian” (Bob Odenkirk) doing their thing, whilst the owner swans around, socialising with many of the figures being reported on in the paper.
However, once the rival “New York Times” obtains a scoop indicating the US government knew Vietnam was an unwinnable conflict, yet sent it’s young to the slaughter anyway, everything changes and life quickly gets more serious.
With Nixon (“Tricky Dicky”) in the Whitehouse, the gloves are off and the NY Times is forbidden to publish further articles due to security issues. Once WAPO gets hold of the story, should they publish in the public interest, thereby flaunting the president’s edicts and end up in jail?
To up the ante further, the paper is making a bid to go public. Clauses are included around any “scandal”, bringing the paper into disrepute. This would derail the public issue, with all the detrimental financial implications this would bring.
What’s a girl to do? especially one complimented at one point for running a household and keeping down a job – the horror…
As you would expect Hanks and Streep are excellent although Spielberg’s direction is somewhat plodding in parts, overdoing the dithering socialite aspect longer than is arguably necessary. Odenkirk also does good work, essaying a character desperate to make a little history, whatever the personal cost to him and those around him.
There are neat touches, journalist Bagdikian feeling the presses start to move as he types and the shots of typesetting are a sight to behold, did we ever really print newspapers in this way?
The period detail is good, everyone is bathed in browns and orange, what you can see amid the swathes of cigarette smoke. Which highlights the progress we have made in that area.
The film also touches on the acceptance of women in senior positions in large corporations. Sitting as the only woman in the “C Suite” and later hearings, Graham becomes an unlikely role model for younger women. Ironically, despite being conveniently placed the other side of the “glass ceiling”, rather than smashing her way through.
A solid Spielberg entry, which captures the moment when trust between the press and US government was arguably lost forever.
As relevant now as it ever was and whilst presented in a linear, almost unfashionable old 70’s movie style this remains highly watchable, albeit preaching to the converted.