The real hero behind this story is Daniel Ellsberg, a guy who was deeply entrenched in a ‘mainstream’ career, supporting the war the US government and US involvement in Vietnam. He goes to Vietnam as an observer, picks up a rifle, and loses his illusions. The war can’t be won. He helps draft a top secret study ordered for the prominent Robert McNamara, a major figure galvanazing support for the war. The study reveals that the US knows it can’t win the war. Not only that, it shows that the war in Vietnam has been very American all along. That it was the Americans who earlier had propped up the French to enable them to fight the Vietnamese.

US presidents, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon are lying to the public.

This Daniel Ellsberg puts his career on the line, changes his life entirely, copies thousands of pages and leaks them to the press.

IT’s the New York Times -not the Post-  that first publishes some infuriating details of the leaked top secret information.

That’s not really the focus of the movie.

The focus on the movie is on a competitor of the New York Times, namely The Washington Post.

The Post is run by a woman, in fact, she’s the only top level woman at the paper.

The paper is struggling.

It’s in financial shit and is going public to secure some cash influx to keep the paper afloat. Meaning that the opnion of shareholders will matter from now on. They have a week to bail from the thing, after buying the shares.

The woman -played by Meryl Streep- is drawn into a high stakes game.

Moreover, she’s a good friend of Robert McNamara, the one who ordered the shocking study.

The movie has a relatively nice ‘sixties’ feel. It opens with a song by the legendary band CRR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and you immediately get a taste of those flowerpower, yet brutal sixties, that divided America and the world.

And then it gets…

annoying.

Yes, Meryl is the only woman in the room. We get that. It’s a man’s world. We know. We can look up the series Mad Men, it does a thorough job of depicting that übermacho era.

For some reason Spielberg felt the need to add a comical note to the mix.

So you can see Meryl’s face twinge and make all kinds of nervous faces.

She bumbs into chairs, holds her breath when the men talk, and swallows her words.

Yes, funny. If you’re not used to much.

Some in the packed cinema in Bratislava chuckled a bit, at least that.

My wife was annoyed by all these gimmicks. She thought it was unneccessary. ‘It’s as if Spielberg is afraid the movie will be boring if he doesn’t put in this little comical scenes’.

She thought that was weird, because the movie is supposed to celebrate courage. Funny that the director didn’t have the courage to drop these little supposed to be funny moments.

Particularly annoying are the scenes that might as well have had BIG LETTERS ON THE SCREEN TELLING YOU WHAT TO THINK.

The most ridiculous scene, one that director Spike Lee might have come up with, is when Meryl’s character walks out of the court building and all kinds of hippie girls are staring at her admiringly.

Yes, we get it, we get it, enough already, you want us to know that it was hard for a woman to run a company like a newspaper in a male dominated culture and that we’re looking at something like a pioneer. Great, marvellous. You could also have written an open letter asking for an Oscar, mister Spielberg.

The verdict?

  • It’s entertaining. The person next to me had a rather ripe, unflattering bodily odor and 80 percent of the time I forgot about this onslaught on my nasal channels
  • It’s all very predictable and staged. At no point is the viewer really challenged
  • The movie raises some interesting questions, but they never really grip you. Those questions are: Should high profile newspaper people be having drinks with politicians? Is the press allowed to publish anything? Should the press have been alllowed to print all the details concerning the D-day landings in 1944 for example? Should a lying government be exposed by the media? Are top politicians allowed to lie if it benefits the nation?
  • The movie makes it clear that the US political elite was allowing its boys to be shot to pieces thousands of miles from home, for no other reason than that it didn’t want to ‘lose face’. People could sort of understand the need to die to stop communism, but to die so the nation wouldn’t ‘lose face’? That’s trickier.
  • Meryl’s performance is gimmicky, and seems out of place. It’s hard to imagine the Post was run by a cartoon character
  • Tom Hanks’s character is not very interesting, in fact, there are no truly compelling characters in this movie
  • The only reason why Meryl needs to be shown as awkward and insecure, is so the character can go and be transformed later on in the movie. This gives a bombastic American hero sauce that isn’t necessary. The heroes of the New York Times get far less attention in this movie, just like the many unsung heroes who helped fuel the anti-war protests at the time.
  • The hippies in this movie are really cartoonesque…
  • The viewer is let to believe that the owner and employees of the Post risk jail time for publishing on an issue that the New York Times has been blocked from publishing. The risk was rather insignificant…
  • All in all: ok, somebody tried to make a movie portraying a female pioneer in the business word, and the courage of the media, and the necessity of a free press, and the importance of whistle blowers, it’s also an ode to ambitious and gritty business owners, etc, etc. Perhaps a bit much for one movie, especially if the audience gets big screaming suggestions concerning what to think about all this.

Worrisome is that movie makers, who need to distort history at least a little bit to make a good story, are now far more influential than decent history books… Like it or not, this movie will shape how people look back on this era.

With lots of clichés.

A side note :: Here in Slovakia it may be exta relevant these days

I was surprised that an alternative movie theater here in Bratislava was completely packed on Monday night for this movie.

The week before the media exploded with articles about the murdered investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. I wouldn’t be surprised if this murder had something to do with the popularity of this movies. This combined with the most recent Oscar ceremony.

Do we need a free press? Of course we do. We need it to keep the powerful from absusing their power. ‘The press is to govern the governed, not the governors’. But the press is not free, for a wide range of reasons, and this movie only scratches the surface.

 

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