MOVIE REVIEW: Streep and Hanks on to a winner
BEFORE Watergate, there were the Pentagon Papers - a mountain of confidential documents that exposed the secrets and lies of four separate US administrations during the course of the Vietnam War.
The New York Times initially broke the story. When President Nixon slapped a federal injunction on the prestigious newspaper, The Washington Post stepped into the breach.
The two journalistic institutions took the First Amendment battle all the way to the Supreme Court.
Director Steven Spielberg assembles a dream team of seasoned pros to dramatise this momentous series of events in The Post, a film with the urgency of a political thriller and the accessibility of a newspaper yarn, which of course it is.
Rookie screenwriter Liz Hannah gets a shout out here for her Black Listed screenplay, which she and Oscar-winner Josh Singer (Spotlight) have crafted into an Awards Season frontrunner.
Inspired by Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham's Pultizer Prize-winning memoir, The Post is as much a story of female empowerment as it is about freedom of speech - or perhaps the two go hand-in-hand.
Meryl Streep nails the role of Graham, who Graham inherited the company from her late husband (he had previously been handed the reigns by her father). The Pentagon Papers court battle provides the catalyst for her late-blooming coming-of-age.
A member of the establishment herself - Graham was friends with the Kennedys, Kissinger, LBJ and long-serving Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) - she is shaken to the core by what the documents reveal.
One Defense Department memo, under LBJ's presidency, actually acknowledges that the main reason for the country's "persistence" in the war is to avoid a humiliating defeat.
The Papers galvanise Graham into action. Being a canny storyteller, Spielberg makes it clear just how much she has at stake.
Tom Hanks delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee. The two-time Oscar winner subtly conveys the ethical ambiguity of a hardcore
newsman who is driven as much by his hunger for a scoop as he is by a social conscience.
Bob Odenkirk similarly underplays his role as the journeyman who tracks down the source of the leaked papers.
Spielberg makes no bones about the parallels between the Nixon administration's dealings with the media and those of current US President Donald Trump. But The Post also draws attention to the potential impact of diminished resources within the industry itself.
As the presses roll at The Washington Post on June 18, 1971, it's not just the technology that belongs to another era. The Post reminds us that it takes considerable man and woman hours to uncover stories the authorities would like to keep hidden.
THE POST (M)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk
Verdict: Hold the front page