All the President's Men (1976)


More fan art for you guys
More fan art for you guys

Genre: Mystery Drama

Starring: Robert Redford (The StingThe Natural), Dustin Hoffman (Ishtar Kramer vs. Kramer)

Directed By: Alan J. Pakula (The Pelican BriefKlute)

Overview: Based on the true story of Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein as they investigate the burglary that unearthed the Watergate scandal.

After police arrest five men for breaking into the Democratic Party National headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office building, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) goes to court to investigate the burglars. He is shocked when he learns the alleged thieves being arraigned include two ex-CIA operatives. His investigation begins and the men are quickly linked to E. Howard Hunt, a man who worked for the CIA and who was on President Richard Nixon’s advisory staff. The story is too big for one man so another Washington Post journalist, Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), is assigned to help. We follow these two investigative reporters as they dig for facts, and, with the particular assistance of a man known only as ‘Deep Throat’ (played with a Noir penchant by Hal Holbrook), they strive to uncover what seems to point to an epic conspiracy.

Tghe real Woodward and Bernstein - If Redford played *me* in a movie I'd be pretty stoked.
The real Woodward and Bernstein - If Redford played *me* in a movie I'd be pretty stoked.

All The President's Men isn’t the kind of movie whose 138 minutes are filled with beautiful images that make your eyes twinkle. It’s dense. It’s wordy. It’s intricate. Names fly around at a fever pitch. It could easily be called confusing. All The President's Men’s characters are ever surrounded by bland spaces, darkened parking garages and the manmade landscapes of paper-laden newsroom desks. But All The President's Men is exciting, it’s dramatic without being ostentatious: phone calls chasing men around offices, conversations thick with innuendo and backpedalled denials, late night interviews of nervous secret sources, clandestine underground garage meetings with whispered half-hints - All The President's Men presents the regular workday that Woodward and Bernstein face with an intrigue rooted in realism. This procedural does a magnificent job of locking us in the process of the investigative work; the cinematography frequently features minutes-long shots of Robert Redford, at his desk, working the phones, chasing a new lead, writing down a new name. We see him chipping away at a hard monolith and wonder if a concrete chunk will come loose. And whenever the trail gets cold, ‘Deep Throat’ steps in and says something enticing and iconic, like “Follow The Money”. 

Aside from the true story that made this movie possible, what sets All The President's Men apart is the incredible talent of our lead actors, Hoffman and Redford. Redford in particular plays the 9-month newbie reporter Bob Woodward with an energy becoming of his youthful experience. When he hits a lead, we can see his heart racing. When he jumps, we feel the rush of discovery along with him. It was Pakula’s wise decision to show so many close-ups of him. I would never describe All The President's Men as art film, but its artistry is incredible, its emotion is raw and honest.

Yes, All The President's Men’s is a dense film, but modern historians, political intrigue lovers and fans of docu-drama would be happy to consider repeat viewings to help connect the dots that might have gotten vague the first time around.

Work the phones, boys!
Work the phones, boys!

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 9 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 84% (Be Out To Get Them)

My wonderful guest made an interesting point when she asked how well this film would hold up with today’s younger audiences. Would those who might not have the original historical context get excited to see this version of the Watergate scandal? Most of us know how it all ended, but since the events of the film are rooted in the investigation rather than the aftermath, All The President's Men’s plays out much like a mystery, doing a fine job of keeping us in suspense. I admit that knowing the context makes the film better, shows us the precise steps that were taken to get to that end that made history. Had I thought about the question before my viewing, I might have an opinion. As it stands, I don’t know. So I guess I’m asking you, dear readers: “Out of context, does All The President's Men tell the story well enough to be properly understood, to be properly enjoyed?”

And in Post Script, I can’t help but think about the context of the universal ‘-gate’ suffix added to political scandals. Do 20-year-olds know that all the ‘-gates’ originate from Watergate? Ask your kids for me. Let me know how your survey turned out.

P.P.S. Here’s a few important ‘-gates’ to get you worked up:




And a weird ridiculous one:

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I saw this in  the theater when it came out so I'm not able to say how it would hold up for twenty-somethings.  However, even then, a teenage girl behind me said to her friend "is this a true story?"!


Nice review. 

As a twenty-something myself, I can say, at least for myself, that yes. I have a vague understanding of the importance of Watergate.  I know the illegality of it and am actually looking forward to this film, though, I also know how it ended.   But who knows, maybe I'm in the minority. I enjoy history and stories like these that occurred in the past.  I have a hope in my heart that my friends, both current and former college friends would have at least the same knowledge that I posses, but again, I don't know. I do know that some people my age stare at you blankly if you mention anything that happened in politics or world history before 1989.


Anyway, I am a big fan of films closely based on true events. I understand that no movie avoids dramatization on some level, but I still REALLY want to watch this one. 

Thanks Alex!

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