What Are You Going To Do, Mrs Graham?
Hardnews|March 2018

IMAGINE THIS SCENE. There is a reporter sitting in the first class section of a plane, and he has a box of papers secured by a seat belt in the seat next to him, which he has bought an extra ticket for. 

Sonali Ghosh

When the flight attendant enquires if the papers are precious cargo, he replies, ”Just government secrets.” She laughs and moves away, thinking it is a joke.

Well, what makes The Post enjoyable is that the papers are really government secrets travelling by commercial airline, and the scene is exactly as it happened in real life to assistant editor Ben Bagdikian of Washington Post as he carried copies of the Pentagon Papers. It is Steven Spielberg’s magic that makes a box of papers bound by a dog’s leash, transform into high drama.

The drama is not just what you see unfolding on the screen. When Spielberg got the script, right after the Trump presidency’s ascendance, the director knew he wanted to make this story of an autocratic Republican president trying to quash the freedom of the press. “The level of urgency to make the movie was because of the current climate of this administration, bombarding the press and labelling the truth as fake if it suited them,” Spielberg says in an interview to the Guardian, “I deeply resented the hash tag ‘alternative facts’ because I’m a believer in only one truth, which is the objective truth.” This gives heft and a timely topicality to a movie that already has politics, the professional and the personal seamlessly woven in.

The screenplay by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is layered and complex, giving you all the frenetic activity of that eventful year of 1971 –– Ellensberg’s leaked Pentagon Papers (documents revealing the US government’s lies about the Vietnam war), the First Amendment, and the cloak and dagger of newspaper offices and leaks.

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What Are You Going To Do, Mrs Graham?

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