Friday, January 19, 2018

The Post: Monday, January 15 2018

The Post is directed by Stephen Spielberg. As one would expect, it is a highly professional film. Tom Hanks, as Ben Bradlee, and Meryl Streep, as Kay Graham, both deliver great performances, again as one would expect. The rest of the cast is also plausible, and the screenplay and direction keep the tension high. I loved seeing the presses printing the papers. I could almost smell the printers ink.

The story is from the point of view of the media on the efforts of The NewYork Times and The Washington Post to publish the classified Pentagon Papers, stolen from the Government of the United States by Daniel Ellsberg. An injunction issued against The Times prevents the paper from publishing the papers. Daniel Ellsberg, who had first copied the secret files, then passes them on to The Post. Kay Graham has to decide whether to publish them,or not. She decided to take the risk. The Times and The Post then appear together in the Supreme Court pleading the First Amendment argument, The court rules in favour of the newspapers. The film ends with Nixon ordering that The Post be kept out of the White House. Then a report is given of the beginning of Watergate. The media was out to get Nixon, and did.

The film simplistically argues that for 20 years, from 1955 to 1975, the government of the United States had lied to the people about the progress of the Vietnam War. The war was fought by the South Vietnam Government, supported by The States, South Korea, Australia and other anti-Communist countries, against North Vietnam, supported by Russia, China and other Communist allies. No doubt hoping that the tide would be turned by the military, the news had been given that the war was progressing, whereas it had been disasterous. The American government, no doubt reluctant to announce an unpopular defeat by the Communists, was forced to do just that. But by that time, the media had changed public opinion about the war, so that in the end it seemed a good decision, even if it threw South Vietnam to the wolves, as it were. North America gained many valuable immigrants from Vietnam as a result. The Communists took over Vietnam.

If classified documents can be stolen, copied and given to the media, does this mean there ought to be no such things as State Secrets? Does this mean the media has the right to destroy a government, or an individual, in the name of freedom of the press? Ought the media to put the right of the people to know everything, before the right of the government to hide its motivations and actions from other countries, especially in times of war? Is disloyalty to the Government of the United States, no matter which party is in power, no longer considered treason? This film gives rise to many questions.

The Post is a competent film, if almost a little bit too slick and lacking in originality. It is entertaining, and pleasant to watch; especially all the beautiful houses in which it is set. It left me a little uncomfortable as I found myself asking all those difficult questions, but, apart from that, it was a good film, if not great. It didn't leave me feeling good.

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