The way they lied, those days have to be over.
Why did I watch it?
I didn’t know I needed to watch another film about brave journalism at the Washington Post until I read that Spielberg had rushed to make this following the election of Trump.
Did it meet expectations?
As you might expect, this is a tub-thumping hymn to the independence of the press and those who really stand up for it, and of course at Spieldberg’s hands it’s supremely well constructed – hitting all the right beats to make it exciting and inspiring (with a suitably stirring score from regular collaborator John Williams). It has that feel of early West Wing: you get invested in the cause because good people are taking risks to do stuff that matters.
Incidentally, it took me almost the whole of West Wing alumnus Bradley Whitford’s first scene to work out who he was under that white hair – it was only the liveliness of his eyebrows above those glasses that gave him away. Another Sorkin alumnus is Sarah Paulson (Studio 60) as Bradlee’s wife. (I kept thinking I recognised other players, but this is probably @MattJTownsend’s fault for hinting that I would). Neither Tom Hanks nor Meryl Streep generally sell me on a film, but they were both good (even if her performance, in particular, was somewhat overcooked).
Clearly it’s not going to win over any of Trump’s fake news brigade, but it’s not supposed to. It’s a good guys vs bad guys story; a reminder for, and celebration of, those newspaper folk who are sticking to their guns. Nixon is but a sinister voice, a silhouette in the window of the oval office – though through Bruce Greenwood’s McNamara there is some attempt to understand the mendacity of previous administrations. I hope as many journalists, editors and publishers as possible get to see it and, despite its moral simplicity, are buoyed by the bravey that it celebrates.
And it doesn’t tread on the toes of All The President’s Men; it’s a different beast focusing on the politics rather than the journalism in the publication of the Pentagon Papers (the three months preparation of the New York Times stories are unseen). But there’s an unmistakable nod that makes it almost a prequel and leaves me itching to go back and rewatch Pakula’s film.
You should watch it if…
- You’re interested in The Washington Post vs Nixon
- You enjoy a feel-good political thriller
You shouldn’t watch it if…
- You’re allergic to self-congratulation, even in a good cause
Next up: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)