This film was the most moving for me during a sequence of scenes that begin with the unassuming summation of what's at stake for Kay Graham by another perceptive, if peripheral, woman in the film. And in the scenes right after Graham makes her critical call, you watch the events spool down the chain of command as the ungainly machinery of an early-1970s press produces a newspaper. Having worked in the newsroom at the end of the nineties, I was present when the physical cutting and pasting of the paper gave way to a fully-digitized layout. I also remember a male colleague inadvertently betraying that he was being paid seven grand more a year for doing the same job I did.
Kay Graham was given the helm of the Washington Post as a 45-year-old woman who had never held a job. One who believed it was perfectly natural for her father to leave the paper in the hands of her husband. It was only after her father and husband were no longer in authority that she took over. Streep's portrayal was very sympathetic for me. And the moments in which she was thrust into the crucible of a choice with staggering, unimaginable stakes are the ones in which her mettle was proved. By the time she stood by her call in the face of even greater stakes, I was silently weeping at the recognition that evil does not always triumph. That character can, in fact, stand the atomic blast of intimidation while taking responsibility for the welfare of others in situations that dwarf the individual and the treasured associations they seek to protect.
Watching the story of these ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, I'm inspired to recognize there are calls to integrity which will always trump lesser, though proper, loyalties. There are hierarchies of rightness and paying allegiance to the highest of them is a proving ground for character. So that in those moments, you know yourself. And then you learn, in the aftermath, what good is truly capable of accomplishing in the face of unspeakable, organized, generations-long evils. Watching a woman rise to the occasion and spark a chain reaction of courageous service to the governed, and not the government, was a pinnacle experience.