Top Ten Movies of 2017 — Number Eight

7 post

These days, The Washington Post is demonstrating no reluctance in their insistence on the primacy of a free and robust press in a healthy republic. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the motto emblazoned on their masthead in a direct rebuke to the bullying of the administration currently occupying the executive branch of U.S. government. With The Post, director Steven Spielberg offers his cinematic corroborating testimony. The film depicts the internal struggles at The Washington Post as they pursued stories about the leaked reports referred to as the Pentagon Papers at the precise moment, in 1971, The New York Times was under a very real threat of government censure for breaking the story about those very same damning documents. Leaning wisely on a stacked cast of pros (led by Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as publisher Katharine Graham, both excellent), Spielberg draws his drama from the simple heroism of journalists doing their job, using his nearly peerless talent for narrative storytelling to infuse reverberating tension into the act of rummaging through stacks or paper or bickering over the tug-of-war between journalistic ethics and business considerations. In a useful reminder that battles must often be waged concurrently, the film also portrays the ways in which Graham faced virulent chauvinism as she asserted her authority over the newspaper and the business she ran. That Spielberg — whose overall record with female characters is a little spotty — handles these scenes with the same level of astute, empathetic observation demonstrates the seasoned filmmaker’s admirable commitment to constantly testing himself. With The Post, Spielberg is doing wonders with the light.

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