What most of us know about the Watergate scandal is traced back to grade school but to be honest even that is a little fuzzy since American history courses don’t spend so much time on the actual event. The scandal plays a large role in the political landscape that has shown the checks and balances of the United States is crucial to the existence of democracy. If a branch of the government has absolute power, the entire system crumbles. Not even the president is above the law – even they must respect the oath they swear when elected to office.
All the President’s Men based on the book of the same name written by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward follows the two reporters that work at the Washington Post who took on the story of the Watergate scandal that took down President Richard Nixon. The Watergate scandal is traced all the way up to President Nixon when five burglars who broke into Democratic headquarters to bug the offices for political advantages. All five burglars are connected back to the corruption surrounding Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President. The two reporters who broke the story Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford).
All the President’s Men spins a fascinating web of conspiracy and corruption that actually happened in American history. Personally, I’ve always liked learning about American history even from a biased perspective so it was only natural that I would show specific interest in this film. What grade schools should add to their curriculum is how other counties see America during these moments of history to get a full understanding of the respective events that shaped America to what it is today. Forrest Gump in its decade to decade travelling story shows how a person can perceive an event in history (even making it lighthearted enough to have Forrest himself be the one who alerted the authorities).
“Goddammit, when is somebody going to go on the record in this story?!…You guys are about to write a story that says the former Attorney General, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in this country, is a crook! Just be sure you’re right…Leave plenty of room for his denial.”
To get back on track, All the President’s Men’s focus is on the art of Journalism and less about the melodrama – from where the story was nothing major to the President of the United States resigning with his involvement in the corruption. There are still dramatic moments sprinkled throughout the narrative that do the film justice in driving home its main message. As much as the drama of one of the biggest scandals in American history creates the tension, the camera work and cinematography by Gordon Willis brings the tension of the situation to its peak.
Most of All the President’s Men is dialogue, after all, how much action could there be surrounding a newspaper drama. Bob Woodward is on the phone with more people in the 2-hour runtime than I have been in my entire life. So many names, dates, wrong turns and possibilities are uncovered that it’s enough to make any person go mad. But it’s in these quick conversations of leads that capture the spirit that director Alan J. Pakula set out to capture. Whenever Bob is on to something, Carl comes to listen on a separate phone, the music starts, focus is drawn in on our two protagonists and the dialogue becomes crisper and more slowed down despite the anticipation of the answers.
It’s the anticipation that drives this narrative from small, miniscule story that the Post didn’t care about to one of the biggest domestic scandals that exposed the corruption of the American Government. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman capture the journalistic integrity of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Although reluctant to work together, the two reporters mesh rather well with one another. Their on-screen chemistry alludes to their actual relationship that provides the foundation for this adaptation. Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards), Harry Rosenfeld (Jack Warden) & Howard Simons (Martin Balsam) all come across as believable in their roles as reporters and head of the Washington Post. Credit is due to the casting given the dialogue centric screenplay by William Goldman.
“Look, you’ve been jerking my chain all day. If there’s some reason you can’t talk to me–like the fact that you’ve already leaked everything to The New York Times–just say so.”
Given the amount of contacts Bob and Carl reached out to the cast size is rather large even though some only had one or two lines at most. The famed anonymous source simply known as Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) has an important role to play passing information to Bob in a parking garage. In these scenes the expectation for action is teased but it never comes. That’s the brilliance of the camera work and the music to build up the possible danger only for Bob to turn around and hear an alarm or an animal in the night.
All the President’s Men is more about the journalistic process than it is about the drama surrounding the Watergate scandal. With two believable performances by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman the tension of each scene is instead built by the music and cinematography. Deep insight and a dialogue heavy screenplay help this film find its footing early on and never slows down or loses its touch. If I were to rate All the President’s Men, I’d rate it a 4.5 out of 5.
So, tell me, have you seen All the President’s Men and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
All the President’s Men is directed by Alan J. Pakula is Rated R and has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. All the President’s Men was released on April 5, 1976 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 18 minutes. All the President’s Men can be purchased by online retailers such as Amazon, iTunes and Google.