Under the Radar

'The Post' is Really a Vietnam War Movie

While Steven Spielberg was waiting for the special effects crews to finish their complicated work on "Ready Player One," he read the screenplay for "The Post" and decided to make a movie. Cast and crew were shooting the movie one year ago and it's already played in theaters, been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and now it's available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

The movie establishes its Vietnam War theme in the opening scene: Intelligence analyst Daniel Ellsberg is on patrol with a unit in Hau Nghia province in 1966. There's a firefight and the movie establishes the future Pentagon Papers leaker as a guy who experienced life on the front lines. Ellsberg later shares his intelligence with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and sees him lie to the press about the state of the war.

Whether you enjoy "The Post" depends on a couple of things. If you still think publication of the Pentagon Papers cost the United States a chance to win the war in Southeast Asia, just skip it. If you made it all the way through the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Vietnam War documentary on PBS last fall without throwing the remote, then this movie adds more context to one of the most critical domestic events over the course of the conflict.

Tom Hanks plays Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee at the moment when he's trying to establish the newspaper as a national player in the media business. Meryl Streep plays Kathryn Graham, the paper's owner who's trying to take her company public in an effort to raise money to fund expansion.

The New York Times' Neil Sheehan (a guy familiar to viewers of the PBS documentary) is the first reporter to publish information from Ellsberg's leaked papers, scooping everyone else in the media. The Nixon White House goes to court for an injunction against the Times and the Post gets the opportunity to publish while the legal case is resolved.

Will Bradlee and Graham risk potential criminal charges to publish information that Bradlee considers vital to the national interest?

Anyone who's interested in watching this one will know the answer to that question but Spielberg still creates suspense by examining all the arguments on both sides and showing just how close a call it was when Graham decided to publish.

There's a large number of bonus features, most of which are worth watching: 

Layout: Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee & The Washington Post: Get to know the brave real-life characters at the heart of this story, Kay Graham and Ben Bradlee, who risked everything to tell the truth.

Editorial: The Cast and Characters of The Post: Learn how, once Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks agreed to make this important film, other world-class actors also signed on!

The Style Section: Re-Creating an Era: Visit the 1970s and the Washington Post newsroom in this engaging exploration of how the style of The Pentagon Papers era was created.

Stop the Presses: Filming The Post: You’re invited onto the set with Steven Spielberg, his collaborators and his cast as they meticulously craft each cinematic moment.

Arts and Entertainment: Music for The Post:Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams celebrate their 44-year partnership in this moving tribute to collaboration and friendship.

The cast and crew make a big deal of how hard everyone worked to get the 1971 details right, but no one bothers to explain why Robert McNamara is wearing a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt several years before they were introduced. Sure the film was rushed, but couldn't they have found a historically accurate Lacoste? 

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