Spielberg's 'The Post' feels ripped from the headlines

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks

Like many movie fans, you may be doing your own math.

It's certainly the Time's Up-iest. The classified papers contended that young Americans were sent off to fight the war in Vietnam despite all the Presidents knowing the prospects of winning, were dim.

All of this is depicted in the Steven Spielberg-directed political thriller, which aside from Streep and Hanks, also stars Sarah Paulson ("Antoinette "Tony" Pinchot Bradlee"), Bob Odenkirk ("Ben Bagdikian"), Alison Brie ("Lally Graham") and Carrie Coon ("Meg Greenfield").

Set in 1971 in Washington, D.C., Spielberg's "The Post" is based on the fascinating true story of the Pentagon Papers, a revealing and extensive series of documents that exposed backroom US involvement in Vietnam stretching back to the Truman administration. She is always determined to do that but her demeanor seems to say otherwise, typical of a woman of her era. The White House was so enraged that two days later, citing national security concerns, the paper was hit with a temporary injunction against publishing any further stories about those documents. Both Graham, born to privilege, and Bradlee, making his way there, are complicit in this.

Hanks throws himself into the role of the gruff, gutsy editor but comes off as Ben Bradlee Lite. For a limited time, get a digital subscription for just $3.95 a month. In order to scoop the rest of the country, the Post has 10 hours. Here, too, there are moments that are a bit overwrought-Graham descends the steps of the Supreme Court through a sea of women gazing at her in unabashed hero-worship-but it's a fascinating piece of character study, even if it's one that's more parallel to the central narrative than integrated into it.

The decision to publish is ultimately hers, and it couldn't come at a worse time. But can they take that chance given the possible consequences - a probable shut down of the paper and risk jail time for the editor-publisher duo.

By balancing the high stakes of Bradlee's quest to publish with Graham's evolution into a leader, newcomer Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, an Oscar victor for "Spotlight", have found a way to put a human face on this historic battle for freedom of the press.

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Given what we know, the picture does a reasonable job of generating suspense as Bradlee and his team scramble to get their hands on a copy of the report so the Post can become a player by picking up where the Times left off. Seeing those two threads intertwine in such a gripping and energetic movie, with a large cast so good that it's nearly unfair, really, is a blast. And even when it is what you're getting, it's nice to have a lecturer with some style. When that's been your reality for so long, it's hard not to let yourself think it's true.

Apparently referring to President Trump, Hanks continued: "We have proven, I think, just within the last few years, that if you want to be president of the United States, guess what, there's a way that that can happen".

Speaking of Paulson, a regular nominee for "American Horror Story" and a victor for "American Crime Story", it's as though Spielberg placed copies of the script in gift bags at the Emmys.

Then there's Tracy Letts, who also stars in the awards-season darling "Lady Bird", as Frederick "Fritz" Beebe, chairman of the board of The Washington Post Company.

The decision over whether to publish becomes Graham's crucible as publisher, the chance for her to transition from flighty, anxious neophyte to stone-cold boss and power player.

If they didn't, The Washington Post as we know it never would have existed.

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