I'll admit it. I started crying the first time I saw Tom Hanks' Ben Bradlee walk through a bustling newsroom in The Post, and I'm pretty sure that's what Steven Spielberg wanted. The clicking and clacking and shouting, the reporters and editors working away or striding about, conjure a world that's been lost.
In fact, "Once upon a time" might have been a good way to start this movie. The Post follows those heady days in 1971 when former Defense Department official Daniel Ellsberg (played here by The Americans' Matthew Rhys) leaked the Pentagon Papers, a massive, top secret government study of the the United States' disastrous, decades-long involvement in Vietnam. At The Washington Post, owner Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor-in-chief Bradlee at first watched helplessly as The New York Times scooped them. But then the Nixon Administration got a judge to bar the Times from publishing the leaked documents, and the Post found its opening: Having procured the Papers themselves, they could publish in the Times' stead — at the risk of Bradlee and Graham landing in prison.
It makes for a supremely gripping story, and Spielberg shoots this political drama like an Indiana Jones movie. He uses technique to add complexity, not subtract it: As we watch Katherine Graham drift through rooms filled with murmuring men, we certainly get the idea of the gender imbalance and how she has had to navigate such spaces her whole life. It's both the source of her frustration -- she struggles to assert herself in the earlier scenes -- as well as a secret strength: She understands the language of this world, and watching her slowly take command is stirring.