Based on true events, Meryl Streep plays Katharine Graham who inherited ownership of The Washington Post in the late 60s. She was the first woman at such a high level in a publishing company in a world surrounded by confident men. Tom Hanks plays the newspaper’s editor Ben Bradlee and the story is set in the early 70s when the Washington Post is playing second fiddle to The New York Times, who seem to have the upper hand on both the reporting of exclusives and their finances.
At a time when The Washington Post is trying to raise some money by selling shares, The New York Times breaks a huge story involving classified department of defence reports around the Vietnam War going back 20 years. ‘The Pentagon Papers’ reveal cover-ups and systematic lying to the public and congress, so the sitting President Nixon slaps an injunction on the New York Times. Can the Washington Post get hold of the documents, and if they do will they publish or not? Ben thinks there’s no point having a paper if they don’t publish the pentagon paper’s findings, but Katharine sees that there’s no point publishing if they then won’t have a paper.
So, will they publish or not? Well, who can tell? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Would they really make a film about a paper deciding not to publish something? Will they or won’t they?
Meryl Streep is good as Katharine, growing with confidence as the film progresses, but I found the whole thing incredibly dull. Tom Hanks is very one note and there’s just no drama or suspense to be found in a decision to publish a story or not, no matter how earnest and insistent he gets. The subject matter seemed almost quaint when viewed with modern eyes and Steven Spielberg seems to have made a nostalgic piece for newspapers, with rousing scenes showing machinations of the printing press.
2 on 5
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks,
UK Release: 12th Jan 2018