The Centurion

“The Post” is a Timely Film on Secret Files, Feminism, and Free Speech

Ryan Davis

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Steven Spielberg, continuing a
list of successful historical films
including “Lincoln” and “Schindler’s
List,” has produced a timely
film touching issues of government
corruption, female power,
and freedom of the press.

The movie follows Katharine
Graham (Meryl Streep) as she
takes the reigns of the Washington
Post amid intense financial scrutiny
and a looming IPO. Meanwhile,
her editor Ben Bradlee
(Tom Hanks), seeks to gain access
to a series of secretive documents
detailing White House mendacity
about the nation’s most pressing
issue: the war in Vietnam.

The people are turning against
the war, the press are against
it and the whole of America is
beginning to see through the
administration’s use of what
today might be called “alternative
facts.” Bradlee and his newsroom
are intent on showing the American
public the truth.

Graham struggles over the decision
to publish information from
the documents, a classified 4,000-
page study known as the Pentagon
Papers. The Papers contain proof
that Secretary of Defense Robert
McNamara (Bruce Greenwood)
knew that the war was unwinnable
but kept sending American
lives to die in order to save face,
as well as proof of foreign- in this
case, American- interference in
Vietnamese elections.

Thanks to the efforts of the
Times and the Post, it is possible
today to find the entire dossier
of Pentagon Papers documents,
bundled in a five-volume hardback
set, in Bucks’s library on the
Newtown Campus available for
browsing by students. The Papers
can also be found online on the
Washington Post’s website.

The film deals most pointedly
with issues of press freedom and
free speech, and how the government
wants complete privacy
in official matters, as well as the
problem of media chumminess
with government officials and the
conflict of interest that can create.

In a time of fake news, seemingly
endless war and government
classification, it is stories like this
that show what happens when the
American people decide to take
matters into their own hands.
The movie is impressively shot
and the acting is well-done. This
is especially true of Streep, who
does a great job acting calm when
needed and feisty when she is
questioned. The camera is always
in the right place to show the intense
emotion convulsing through
American society during a highly
polarized period.

However, the story is not a
perfect parallel of what would
happen today if a trove of government
secrets was exposed. There
was great urgency surrounding
the publication the Papers in time
for the printers to start rolling, but
today, the whole batch could be
dumped online instantly, as the
Snowden Leaks or WikiLeaks’
Vault 7 and Vault 8 files were.

On the bright side, this movie
may driver young audiences to
become skeptical of the powers
that be, including the government
and even the news media itself.
This would allow people to not
take things at face value but to dig
deeper and really understand what
is going on.

In the end, The Post is a
well-designed movie with an
interesting story highly relevant
with today’s fascination with fake
news and government conspiracies
and serves as a testament to
what America’s newspapers have
had to go through to get where
they are today.

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“The Post” is a Timely Film on Secret Files, Feminism, and Free Speech