The Post deals with weighty issues about government cover-ups and freedom of the press. But don’t be scared off if you’re afraid it’s one big history lesson.

This drama from Steven Spielberg is also a lot of fun. It has the rollicking swagger of beat-the-clock newspaper movies, the cloak-and-dagger mysteries of high-level hidden secrets, and shows how one woman rose above sexism and her own insecurities to become an influential, confident voice.

Spielberg did not cut any corners when it came to casting. Up front are Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as brash Post editor Ben Bradlee. Both are excellent.

The supporting cast is also a collection of powerhouses: Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie, Bruce Greenwood and Sarah Paulson.

The year is 1971. Richard Nixon is in the White House. The Vietnam War is raging and a former military analyst named Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) has managed to pilfer classified documents from the Rand Corp., the government-funded think tank.

The 7,000-page report covered U.S. political and military involvement in Vietnam for more than 20 years. It detailed a series of blunders and lies. Bottom line: Even though our government saw no hope of winning the war or resolving the conflict, we kept throwing thousands of human lives onto the fire.

When no one would listen to Ellsberg, he did what many whistleblowers do: he leaked the report to the New York Times.

The country was rattled when the Times published a series of massive stories based on what came to be called the Pentagon Papers. But the Nixon White House was able to put a kibosh on the articles, getting the Justice Department to stop the Times from publishing. The Washington Post jumped on board and ultimately the Supreme Court decided the case in a landmark decision.

Because the Times and reporter Neil Sheehan had broken the story, the Post was playing catch-up. It didn’t have the papers at first. (This was a year before the Watergate break-in, and the Post had yet to establish itself as a national media powerhouse.)

The film navigates two streams.

Stream No. 1 shows how the Post, and reporter Ben Bagdikian (Odenkirk), finally landed the papers, or at least a big chunk of them.

But publishing did not come easily. The company was on the verge of going public with a stock offering, and it was not an optimum time for ticking off the Feds.

Stream No. 2 reveals the evolution of Graham, the rare woman running a media company, who was looked down upon by her own board. It took guts to publish, and Graham was also running counter to her social cronies in Washington, including former defense secretary Robert McNamara (Greenwood), who had ordered the Pentagon study in the first place and knew about its damning conclusions.

Streep is quite wonderful as Graham, taking us on a journey from the unsure-of-herself woman (who had taken over the paper when her husband Phil killed himself in 1963) to a publisher willing to take chances. Streep’s Graham evolves subtly without overdoing it.

Hanks had an even tougher assignment. Not only was he portraying the real-life Bradlee, a journalism legend who ran the Post’s newsroom for 26 years, but he was also battling the ghost of Movie Ben, Jason Robards’ towering, Oscar-winning turn as Bradlee in All the President’s Men in 1976.

But Hanks delivers as the rolling-up-his-sleeves editor. Much like Streep, he wins points by dialing down his Hanksian touches a notch or two to give us a glimpse of the genuine frustrations of a man anxious to even the score, with the Times and the government.

Nixon is portrayed only from a distance, seen through a White House window and heard expressing his distaste for the press on the phone to his underlings. A smart dramatic choice.

The script by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is first rate, and Spielberg and crew (including production designer Rick Carter and costume designer Ann Roth) also deserve kudos for re-creating the look and feel of the early 1970s.

Their newsroom is filled with nice vintage touches — typewriters, rotary phones, copy editors editing with pencils — though not nearly enough cigarette smoke.

In the era of so-called “Fake News,” The Post is a great reminder of the importance of a vibrant, fearless press. When those hot-type letters are arranged and the ink starts flowing and the presses start rumbling, you can feel the “Take That!” smack of speaking truth to power.

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or coconnor@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.