[Actually, I saw this film two months ago and forgot to post this review. I often refer back to this blog when I can’t remember whether I’ve seen a film or not, so here goes…a review of a film that’s no longer screening]
This movie has both the big heavy hitters: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks who of course make acting look so simple that it barely seems as if they are acting. Having said that, I didn’t recognize Tom Hanks at first, so he was playing someone other than Tom Hanks. It is, of course, the story of Katharine Graham’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, the forerunner to Watergate (to my shame, I wasn’t completely sure that they were two separate events).
The Smithsonian Mag has an interesting article about the authenticity of the film. They point out that Graham wasn’t quite as innocent and untried as the film suggests, because she had been running the paper for eight years previously. They also point out that Graham was strongly involved in the decision to publish the Watergate papers too, even though she is almost expunged completely in All the President’s Men.
The film is produced by Steven Spielberg, who can be relied on to over-egg the pudding and he does it here too, with music so intrusive and such a wave of feel-good-ness at the end that it almost felt like a parody.
I found myself wondering whether it had been written post-Trump, as so many of the themes (freedom of the press, influence of the government, women) are so relevant right this minute. Apparently, the Smithsonian Mag article claims, the film rights were sold a week before the 2016 election.
The film underlines the importance of the press – a paid, professional, independent press. It made me feel a little smug and self-righteous but also proud that I continue to subscribe to several newspapers (even though I have a love-hate relationship with them all at one stage or another.) I also feel a little frisson of pride that the Unitarian Universalist publishing arm, Beacon Press, was involved in the very risky act of publishing the first full edition of the Papers. You can read more about it here.