All the President's Men
At times it looked like it might cost them their jobs, their reputations, and maybe even their lives.
In the run-up to the 1972 elections, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward covers what seems to be a minor break-in at the Democratic Party National headquarters. He is surprised to find top lawyers already on the defense case, and the discovery of names and addresses of Republican fund organizers on the accused further arouses his suspicions. The editor of the Post is prepared to run with the story and assigns Woodward and Carl Bernstein to it. They find the trail leading higher and higher in the Republican Party, and eventually into the White House itself.
This is perhaps one of the best procedural films ever made and what I respect about it is that it approaches its subject matter without frills and added fictional distractors to spice up the story. It sticks to the task at hand and, much like the journalists featuring in the story, it is intent on presenting the account as close to the truth as possible.
Alan J. Pakula seems to understand one thing very well here and that is that if you want to tell a story as intricate as this one, you have to make sure that the audience will listen to those telling it. He does that brilliantly by allowing for a lot of dialogue, not forcing himself…
The thing that never fails to amaze me whenever I watch All The President's Men, and I've seen it several times now, is the way it manages to be a thriller without really being a thriller.
Because it really isn't, is it? Aside from a bit of a scare after one of the meetings with Deep Throat, there are no conventional thrills here. Plus there is the fact that this is, of course, a true story. Yet throughout the majority of its running time, there is an air of tension and feeling of danger running through it that you don't really shake off until the very last reel - even more remarkable in that we all know how this story…
This film has often been cited as the quintessential procedural film.
And it is.
It’s a fantastic, straightforward film, with an important subject matter and a fantastic script. It’s clearly an influence on the procedural sub-genre, and the genre of historical fiction in general. It’s subject matter remains relevant, impressively detailing one of the most important events in American history while remaining a fantastic and riveting piece of cinema. The performances are great, with the film focusing on Washington post reporters Woodward (Robert Redford) and Burnstein (Dustin Hoffman) as they try to uncover the secrets of the Watergate scandal. There isn’t much emotion put into a procedural piece, but you can’t help but connect with these reporters, and desire for…
Amazing what you can get away with when the subject is so recent and momentous that a general audience can be trusted to respond to minutiae. Zodiac actually seems concise by comparison (it also has a killer to cut away to for a while, whereas this is 100% investigation after the break-in), and Pakula continually makes choices that would be considered daft in almost any other Hollywood context: introducing his protagonists with zero fanfare, as if they were bit players; training the camera on notes and doodles in order to foreground a slow accumulation of bewildering detail; letting actors shout at each other over the sound of an airplane passing overhead, when neither the plane nor the shouting has…
Case for watching this in a theater: The opening shot of type writer arms slamming home on paper. On your average TV, the arms are about a foot long, maybe. On a massive movie screen they're the size of fucking stretch Humvees and they explode like the cannons at Nixon's inauguration. Power of the press manifested as a literal physical power.
This movie would be a solid investigative procedural as written, led as it is by two peak of their career actors and buoyed with an amazing supporting cast, but the Alan Pakula/Gordon Willis tag team were going for a hat trick after Klute and Parallax View. Practically every frame of All the Presidents Men visually reinforces its story and…
Grips like a thriller despite the complete absence of any fights, chases, or explicit physical jeopardy of any kind. Instead you have two investigators doggedly pursuing leads and clues of all sorts even though they don't know what they're looking for or how they'll know when they've found it.
It's pretty telling that almost everyone who Woodstein steamroll over in their pursuit of the truth is cast in a sympathetic light - the same traits that make them great investigators also make them kind of assholes (love the scene with Woodward suddenly asking their prey about his newborn baby in the most transparently perfunctory fashion imaginable, just after getting a key piece of information).
I don't think I have the chops to praise Pakula's brilliant direction, but suffice it to say it's virtuoso-level stuff that elevates already great material into the stratosphere.
Even though you've seen it before and even though you know how the story went down, this movie always feels fresh and engaging, both cinematographically and performance-wise.
The only way this could be better is if it were longer.
Dense, to-the-point, and extremely factual, All the President's Men is a very slow burner. Maybe a little too slow. I liked how the information was presented to the viewer. This is what we did, this is who we talked to and where we went to get our story. I feel that in that sense it was a good move. The director and screenwriters didn't need to amp up the drama; the drama was there in the real life story all along. However, it does start to drag after a while.
That being said, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are always nice to look at.
One of the best movies ever made about journalism and when the film has Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in their primes as the lead it's really hard to fail.
It's easy to compare this movie to Zodiac. It's a true story about a couple of obsessed men trying to crack open a case and the movie basically detailing every step of the way. I love those kind of movies. While I enjoy Zodiac more, All the President's Men is still damn good.
Being born a good 20 years after this movie even came out, I don't know much about the Watergate scandal except for the main summary. While this film definitely cleared stuff up for me, I would highly…
A superb procedural thriller. Redford and Hoffman are an excellent duo and unmatched in their performances. If only Newsroom was half as good as this...
Brilliant movie, probably my favorite of the 70's paranoia flicks. Finally got it on Blu-ray and it looks fantastic. Can't recommend this one enough.
This is probably the highest rating I've given to a film where I've basically had no idea what's going on. I felt the same way about All The President's Men as I did about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by which I mean that although I could not describe the actual plot to you, the individual scenes and everything else that doesn't require coherent understanding was so good that I didn't really mind. It is the case with both of these movies that I am thankful that I at least knew the very basics of what the story was about going in, as it was only my very rudimentary understanding of the Watergate scandal that lead to me being able to…
More cinematic than it should be given that it is essentially over two hours of people talking on the phone to and about people we don't know. Credit the cast (one of those great 70s ensembles where every role is filled by somebody awesome), script and direction, naturally, but the real star of the show, for me, is Gordon Willis. The shadowy underground parking garage and the famous pan-out in the library remain iconic even in light of the brilliant SIMPSONS spoofs, but Willis' exteriors are every bit as evocative; the rooftops perched above a zigzag of stairs and the ominously empty streets of Washington all suggest the isolation that can be confronted even among the twistiest of labyrinths far more effectively than the flurry of names that we are constantly being hit with.
#77: All the President’s Men (1976) - *****
As somebody who lives and works in the communications world, I couldn't wait to see this film. Not just to see how different the journalistic world was over 30 years ago compared to now, but to see how two reporters essentially brought down a political power. The synopsis on my Netflix sleeve deemed this movie as, "The film that made everybody want to become a journalist," and I truly can see why. This movie not only reinforces the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword, but it says that to truly be mighty, that pen needs to be unbiased and filled with integrity.
All the President's Men is a historical…