ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN (1976)
A thinking man’s political thriller, All the Presidents Men is a true life detective story featuring two crusading journalists working their story, consistently following clues and interviewing various sources (and would be sources) in their quest for the truth.
It is also a film that speaks about the importance and influence of the media, which has unfortunately evolved into a ratings heavy, corporate owned entity.
On June 17th, 1972, 5 men were caught breaking into and bugging the local Democrat headquarters located at the Watergate building. Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) were assigned to cover the story, following a trail that would lead them to the CIA and the highest recesses of the White House, eventually leading to the resignation of the President of the United States, Richard Nixon.
Along the way they will face constant denials, be on the receiving end of various allegations, have their careers on the line, and even have their lives threatened.
Throughout the film Woodward and Bernstein constantly clash, as both contain drastically different personalities and different styles of journalism. The characters’ differences almost run parallel with the acting styles of Redford and Hoffman, the blonde heart throb and the pint sized method man working very well together on screen.
Keeping Woodward and Bernstein in line was Ben Bradlee (played by Jason Robards in an Oscar wining performance) the hard line, well reputed executive editor of the Washington Post who stuck with his men when the chips were down.
A number of character actors play the various (and often anonymous) sources which Woodward and Bernstein used in their articles. Supporting actor extraordinaire Ned Beatty (who seems to have secured a role in almost every movie released in the ‘70s) appears in a small yet memorable sequence with Dustin Hoffman; Jane Alexander received an Oscar nomination for her turn as a hesitant source; and Hal Holbrock played the elusive “Deep Throat”, the anonymous source who lived in the shadows, only speaking to Woodward in the inconspicuous surroundings of a parking garage.
What makes All the Presidents Men such a great movie is the power found within the details.
William Goldman’s screenplay (based on the best selling book by Woodward and Bernstein) is rich in dialogue and tense in structure, while not allowing the weight of its information drag the movie down.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis brings a depth to every shot whether it is the dark tones and shadows in the “Deep Throat” sequences, or the full frame shots of the newsroom filled with de-stilled light (the powerful yet subtle closing image a personal highlight). The set design was also excellent and garnered George Jenkins and George Gaines various awards and accolades.
All of this is brought together by director Alan J. Pakula whose firm direction and obvious love for the material he was brining to life helped created a timeless classic that manages not to seem dated despite its historical content.
An outstanding film that should be apart of everyone’s collection.