There are some movies that are far more than entertainment. They are actually important in other ways. The relevance of this film in an age where truth is in danger, and actual facts are called ‘fake news’ should be obvious, regardless of one’s political viewpoint. Democracies are fragile and they depend on freedom of inquiry, freedom of speech, freedom of the press. Compromise those things, and one is on the slippery slope to an autocracy, if not a straight up dictatorship.
This movie deals with the events surrounding the Pentagon Papers, including the publishing of some of those first by the NY Times and then the Washington Post, in 1971. Basically the film revolves around the agonizing decision whether Katherine Graham, the owner of the Post, was going to publish some of the papers which revealed how four successive Presidents had knowingly sent our soldiers into harms way in Vietnam, knowing full well they couldn’t win that struggle….and continuously lied about it. The relevance of this to our current situation is so clear it slaps you in the face. Rarely has a movie so forcefully delivered a needed reality check. What has most disturbed me in the last year plus is the willingness of committed and sincere Christians to turn a blind eye to lying politicians, and actually try and justify it with the feeble and more often than not false phrase ‘fake news’. But that’s a story for another day.
Both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and the supporting cast including a suddenly old Bradley Whitford (Josh from West Wings days) are superb and deserve whatever awards they win. Spielberg knows how to tell a compact tale like this, and he tells it ever so well. One of the major impressions left by the film was just how alone Katherine Graham was in a ‘man’s world’ and yet how brave and strong she was to make the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, and risk everything. This movie should be the movie of the year, in the drama category.
I recommend this film to whole families, except small children on whom it will be lost, if they care about democracy, and freedom of speech. It can be a good starting point for a needed conversation. It turns out that the Fourth Estate is in some ways the most important one.