We went to see this Academy Awards nominee picture last night. Even though, as a student of history, one knows how it turns out (like Apollo 13), one has to admire the storytelling of Steven Spielberg.
And the acting was superb, too. There wasn’t a wrong note played anywhere during this symphony of characters.
Streep and Hanks
Throughout the film, I kept wondering why their hair styles were so ‘exact’, and then I remembered that they are playing real people, experiencing history as it happened in 1971.
This is a photograph of the actual people Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are portraying:
Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee.
The Pentagon Papers
The whole thing started when the author of the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg decided to leak some of the files, to which he had access at the Rand Corporation, to the New York Times. When the US Government tried to shut down their publication, the Washington Post played catch up with other stories from the Papers.
The payoff in the film occurs at the end when Nixon is heard on a tape recording of a phone call stating that the Post would no longer be allowed access to the White House. Then a security guard is seen discovering the break-in of the White House Plumbers at the Democratic National Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.
And we know how that one played out, eventually, and especially how the Post was instrumental in Nixon’s downfall (think Woodward and Bernstein and their Deep Throat source). What goes around, comes around again.
Katharine Graham was friends with Robert McNamara. Ben Bradlee was friends with John F Kennedy. Some of the back and forth between their characters was the question of loyalty: who or what was most important?
This question resolved itself in the end when they decided that the American people had the right to know they’d been lied to for over 20 years and through the presidencies of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson.
The disclosure took the shine off the Vietnam War and turned the public against it.
They say nothing really changes, but that’s not true.
Feminist politics has brought us to the threshold of a brave new world, where women are no longer just ‘looked through’ as if they didn’t exist.
And the controllers of the Media, television and press, have learned to toe the Corporate line, but only to a point. The present US President has decided, like Nixon, that some of the Media are against him, and has tried to name and shame them by calling their stories “Fake News”. In the end, we are seeing that those same stories are actually being leaked from inside the White House. Is that just a way to discredit the Media? Or are there really disgruntled individuals, like Ellsberg, trying to right a few wrongs?
Only time (and history) will tell…