Director: Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg does an incredibly fast production, boasting an only 9 month transition from script to screen about the Pentagon Papers that the Washington Post published in 1971. Though it’s a little more than just a scandal, a massive controversy at that. It’s mostly about Kay Graham, the first female newspaper publisher and her decision to print, what might be considered as treason or a threat to national security; and put her own career and the paper in jeopardy.
The Pentagon Papers were top secret reports detailing the progression of the Vietnam War, and when revealed to showed that the Administration had lied to both the public and congress in an effort to continue the war. Ellsberg, an analyst, came across these papers and decided that the truth needed to be revealed which triggered possibly one of the biggest controversies in America’s recent history.
Based on an amalgamation of the memoirs from three key people involved, Katherine Graham (Streep), Ben Bradlee (Hanks), her challenging editor and Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the papers in the first place. We’re giving a nicely woven story that covers the scandal from all angles and shows us the pressures and corruption that goes on regarding the truth, something what a paper like the Washington Post would capitalise on.
Streep is, as expected to brilliant in her role as Kay Graham, a character who had inherited the paper from her late husband Phil Graham and has to prove her grit in a rich and powerful man’s world. Hank as her ardent editor is equally brilliant and whilst there’s a wealth of a supporting cast, Odenkirk’s investigative journalist, Ben Bagdikian is great in his role. However, there’s nothing really outstanding here.
Spielberg’s long appointed regular, Williams does a nice score, but generically Williams. It’s swanky at times, like cocktail bar piano music, possibly to highlight the prestigious and hierarchy of the times. I can’t imagine the costume, makeup and overall production being that much of a challenge, even with the short filming time. But it’s all very fitting for the era and location.
This does make a perfect prequel to All The President’s Men. Where this film is dedicated to late director, Nora Ephron who, was once married to Carl Bernstein, one of the duo who uncovered and reported the Watergate scandal for the Washington Post, again with Bradlee and Graham running the paper. Though I’m not suggesting there should be a follow-up piece or a remake.
The story is interesting but not as shocking as the actual controversy. The film unfolds the constant dilemmas and debates within the newspaper and its governing industry, this giving an account of the moral conflicts Graham and Bradlee faced; sometimes butting heads. But both had strong and valid opinions that form the basis of this story; considering their positions, it begs the question of what is the right thing to do.
It’s an incredible story but sadly lacks any real punch and sadly flops towards the end. Maybe because it isn’t central to the controversy, like similar films such as Spotlight or The Big Short. The poster tag “The best picture of the year” is somewhat of an overstatement, which probably works against the film, giving viewers high expectations. It’s not bad by any means but the statement can be misleading.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 7
The Extra Bonus Point: 0
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