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If you were to imagine yourself as a newspaper journalist, one of the best
conspiracies you could ever find yourself stumbling upon would undoubtedly
be the infamous Watergate Scandal. And reporters Bob Woodward (Robert
Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) were the two men who found
themselves head-above-water in an elaborate cover-up that went all the way
up the chain of command to the United States President
On June 17th, 1972, Watergate hotel security guard Frank Wills spotted a possible break-in at the Democratic Party's National Committee. Some apparent CIA agents were arrested for breaking and entering, and later held at a trial, where Bob Woodward first found out that they were more than mere intruders. They worked for the government.
After researching into the matter, Woodward soon realized that one of the intruders had the name of a political figure scrawled in a notebook located within his shirt pocket.
And with the help of Carl Bernstein, a fellow Washington Post reporter (and a veteran of the field), Woodward followed the slight tracks, and the two men soon found themselves unearthing a shattering conspiracy that did indeed lead all the way up to President Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States of America, himself.
Based on Woodward and Bernstein's own memoirs, William Goldman's Oscar-winning script makes for a brilliant subtle mystery; a true-life story as amazingly honest and forthright as it is entertaining and engaging. It would always remain the late Alan J. Pakula's greatest film, and its standing as one of the top films of all time on many various "great movies lists" is certainly merited.
It's a shame that both Hoffman and Redford were snubbed by the Academy Awards for their performances here. As Woodward and Bernstein, the two are amazingly convincing and bounce dialogue off of each other with striking clarity and realistic quality. Hoffman, who is top billed, appears in the film less than Redford, but gives just a performance just as amazing. He would gain an Oscar twelve years later for his portrayal of Raymond Babbitt in "Rain Man," his finest performance to date, but his role in "All the President's Men" is of a different caliber. Woodward and Bernstein are two complete opposites, and at first they rub each other the wrong way -- Bernstein, a veteran reporter, takes one of Woodward's articles and starts making revisions. "I don't mind what you did," Woodward says, "I just mind how you did it." Even though it's not anything special, this if my favorite scene in the movie, and perhaps the best example of just how well these two actors are able to bring their characters to life.
The movie is a mystery but not in the traditional sense. Almost all of us watching the film already know how the story is going to turn out, but the way it makes its dynamic revelations seem surprising and its story tense and exciting is one of the greatest examples of compelling filmmaking.
For the film's opening sequence, in which Woodward and Bernstein's condemning news is written on a typewriter, Pakula used sounds of gunshots to clarify each separate key of the device striking downwards. The 37th President of the United States of America was sentenced to a sort of death with the publishing of that article, and the bold gunshots add an extra depth and meaning to this fact.
"All the President's Men" has no hidden morals, messages, meanings. It's just a true story about something that happened, brought to life on the big screen by a great director, an influential screenwriter and two of the best actors of all time. No, it's not going to have you thinking after it's over, but if anything, it's the type of movie that will generate a lot of talk instead. And more often than not, that's a good thing.
- John Ulmer
The first time I saw this film, I was suitably impressed but found I
couldn't enjoy it completely. In order to keep up with the relentless
of the plot, I didn't pay as much attention to the writing and the
performances as I should have. When it was over, I felt the breakneck
of the story overshadowed the screenplay and acting, rendering the film an
accomplished reprisal of fact but not much else.
What a difference a second viewing made. My familiarity with the plot allowed me to appreciate all the finer details of the film. Watching Redford and Hoffman's disciplined performances as Woodward and Bernstein, for instance, is like watching two expert tennis players work in tandem with one another. When they act together, there is a delightful give-and-take, two masters working their way into a wonderful groove. While they appear steady and reserved on the surface, the two actors radiate a noticeable undercurrent of excitement and dread, as if underneath their stern countenances they're screaming, "Holy sh*t! I can't believe we're doing this!!" Redford, not the strongest dramatic actor, finds his normal-guy niche here and gives one of his best performances. Hoffman is equally strong, making even the simplest scene seem like a masterpiece (the "count to 10" phone scene comes to mind).
Throughout the film, Pakula communicates the idea of these two reporters being completely outnumbered by the people responsible for the Watergate break-in. I loved the numerous overhead shots of Woodward and Bernstein that pull up, up, up, until they're nothing more than specks in the dirty streets of DC. (This technique is also used in the classic scene where the two guys are searching through old records and the camera pulls up to the ceiling and shows them seated along the edge of a circular series of desks.)
The film rockets right along, leaving the viewers as excited over the reporters' discoveries as they are. William Goldman's script helps in this regard, I think, sticking straight to the meat and cutting out any unnecessary roughage. The dialogue gets right down to business while working in realistic vocal habits and the like. Redford really captures this well (listen to his stammering and self-corrections when he talks on the phone to sources - great stuff!).
I can't recommend "All the President's Men" enough. It's tightly-structured, fiercely-paced, and captivating as all get-out. If necessary, watch it twice: once to find out who's who, the second time to savour the handiwork. If you want to talk more about it, leave a red flag on the potted plant on your balcony.
A central problem for all thrillers is that the need to find twist after clever twist means that stories escalate quickly into realms of implausibility; an apparently boring tale of low level corruption soon brings down the President of the United States. Which gives 'All the President's Men' a huge advantage over most thrillers, because this film (based on the Watergate incident in 1972) can tell such a story and support it on the basis that all of it is true. Director Alan Pakula, something of a conspiracy thriller specialist, here does a great job in adapting the book written by the journalists who broke the story: the film is never overly melodramatic, but is always tense, and although it has pair of heroes, we're left in no doubt of their selfish motivations as they work potential witnesses any way they can in their bid to nail the truth. Unlike most clichéd detective thrillers, the true nature of the crime is unknown (and arguably, remains unknown to this day), so even though we know what happened, there's an air of unpredictability to the story; reporters Woodward (played by Robert Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) don't know what they are looking for, even though they are certain that (somewhere) it is there. The plot is nicely paced, and even dares to skip lightly over the eventual vindication of the journalist's hunches, preferring to concentrate on how it felt for them, chasing this huge story, over a mere historical reconstruction of President Nixon's demise. Indeed, although Nixon appears in this film, it's only on television, and played by himself. This means that what we don't get is a wider analysis: a theory as to the true motive of Nixon's actions is hinted at but nothing more; nor does the film tell us whether it regards his behaviour as a disgrace to modern politics, or an mere symptom of them. In this respect, Oliver Stone's (more fanciful) 'Nixon' makes an interesting companion piece. But as a complex, gripping and understated thriller, 'All the President's Men' has few equals. Truth is stranger than fiction indeed.
We now know that it was the FBI's number two man and J Edger Hoover
loyalist W Mark Felt who fingered Nixon!
I'd recommend this movie, but with warnings attached to this! Firstly, Redford and Hoffman were at their best during the 1970's and their performances don't disappoint, I'm sure that they also depicted their respected characters Woodward and Bernstein very well too as they both come across as very believable as reporters or at least the stereotype version. The unkept tardy look, untidy apartments, smoking, corduroy trousers, fast food and neck ties hanging down with unbuttoned collar an shirt you get the picture!
Also, For any foreigner who is interested in American political science, there are about six historical events that dominate US history. To most objective historians the declaration of independence, the US civil war and it's aftermath, the 'New Deal', the defeat of the axis powers in WWII, civil rights or even the collapse of the Soviet empire and the Berlin wall would be tops. However to the American baby-boomer generation, it is JFK's assassination, anti-Vietnam war movement, Woodstock, Richard Nixon's forced resignation and Bill Clinton's come from behind win against George Bush in 1992. Therefore 'All the president's men' is a nostalgic trip down memory lane!
Although the movie is clearly dated, (imagine being a journalist today without a desktop computer, a lap top computer, email, and a cell phone) it does entertain and the pacing I think is effective as it portrays the painstaking work required for investigate journalism. Redford and particularly Hoffman are believable as reporters and the movie is supported by some of the finest character actors about at the time. Hal Holbrook and Jason Robards jockey for the third spot honors with Holbrook probably edging it as the mysterious deep throat. He steals the scenes in the garage. I think there are three times he and Woodward meet and they are some of the most compelling scenes of the whole movie. Alan Pakulas style of directing certainly hit the sweet spot here.
Although it's well paced and it keeps your attention, the film flounders at various levels because the whole unraveling of events and the various connections between the burglars link to CREEP (campaign to reelect the president) and their link to members of Nixons inner circle is not clear. Consequently, the movie ends what appears to be in January of 1973 but Nixon resigned 18 months later? They should have jumped forward to that point before the movie finished. The viewer is left completely confused and frustrated.
Although having Knowledge of the Watergate break in and the Nixon resignation it's impossible to keep up with what is going on. Names such as Liddy, Hunt, Mitchell, Magruder and Dean are banded about and come up all the time but often you don't know who they are? Some narration would have been very helpful!
However, although Woodward and Bernstein deserve credit for keeping the story alive when nobody else was interested but it in reality was the tapes that finally buried Nixon. Once the special prosecutor and the public were able to hear is voice talking about the investigation his presidency was finished, without the tapes he probably would have survived.
How much of the facts portrayed in the film are fiction I suppose nobody will ever know? If I ever run into Woodward and Bernstein I'll ask them! Also for anybody who's curious on who Woodwards 'deep throat' character is they will be disappointed, as it is not revealed in any way, although that is academic now. Check the movie out!
Rating: 9 out of 10. Directed by Alan Pakula. Robert Redford does a great
job playing the role of journalist Bob Woodward. The more talented Dustin
Hoffman gives an excellent performance as Carl Bernstein. I once heard that
this movie is a good guide for 'how-to' and 'how-not-to' conduct
The two journalists team up right after the Watergate burglars get arrested. They follow their own clues, but these tips only lead to dead ends, the puzzle is complicated. However, these Watergate burglars seem to be linked to the Republican Party and possibly to the White House.
Alan Pakula does an incredible job of keeping the movie suspenseful and intriguing. As the story progresses, the viewer feels deeply involved in how these two journalists uncover the conspiracy. The contrast between the two main characters adds to the movie. Redford as Woodward has a relaxed and charming approach, while Hoffman as Bernstein is more persistent and sometimes daring.
Woodward has a White House contact played by Hal Holbrook named 'Deep Throat' that he meets in 'Cloak and Dagger' style in a dark undercover parking lot, we never see his face clearly and he speaks in a rough rasping voice. 'Deep Throat' provides Woodward information in an indirect manner and keeps the journalists on the right track. This type of informant character has been replicated many times over in suspense movies and TV, especially on the TV series 'The X-Files'.
Jason Robarbs as Bill Bradlee, editor of 'The Washington Post' performs remarkably as boss of the newspaper. Constantly reminding Woodward and Bernstein to find good solid evidence, but he also gets frustrated when none of the informants will go on the record with what they know. Robarbs won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role.
I never get bored with watching this movie. If you have not seen it before, treat yourself to a viewing.
This is a very well made film. Many people have spoke against it for being
too left wing, which I really don't see. There really is no debate or
discussion in the film on the Nixon administration. I think people assume
that since Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are well known hollywood
lefties, that this is a anti-Republican film.
The film realistically details the corruption that exists within politics and campaigning. I really don't believe that Woodward and Bernstien were exceptionally bright journalists (despite being aggressive) it seemed more like the people in question who were at the heart of this scandal (Liddy, Hunt, Halderman, Mitchell) just got very arrogant and sloppy and thought they were untouchable.
The film shows how aggresive these reporters have to be (almost crossing the line at being sleazy). It details the early stages of the Watergate scandel and the preliminary press releases and investigations that eventually brought down the entire Nixon administration. The film does this masterfullly...I loved the long sequence when Woodward is talking to Kenneth Dahlberg on the phone and trying to get him to reluctantly tell the truth and the verrrry slow closeup on Redford while the dialogue goes on. Jason Robards delivers a memorable performance as Post editor Ben Bradley.
It was the event of Watergate that changed all of the press from simple onlookers to dirt digging investigative reporters.
We're in June 2017 and "All The Presiden's Men" from 1976 reminds us that film, sometimes, is the strongest historical document we've got. The Washington Post raising alarm signs then and now. Alan J Pakula is one of the greatest directors of his generation. Jane Fonda during her AFI Lifetime Achievement Award told us that working with Alan J Pakula was like dancing with Fred Astaire. Here the chemistry between Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman is such that, at times, it feels like a romantic comedy, warts and all. Astonishing. Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat gives the feeling of "thriller" to this incredible story. We know how the story ends but that doesn't diminish our nervousness that it's perhaps a bit of impatience, just like now in 2017, to see justice be done.
Whenever I look at this film I am always struck by it for several different reasons. One is the fact that this is a look into the recent history of the United States. Thirty years ago, Richard Nixon and his shadow government was just one step away from totally destroying the two party system in this country and if it weren't for the expose' of Woodward and Bernstein American politics would be a lot different today. Also, this is a great detective story. The digging that WoodStein did showed that they were willing to do anything to get to the truth about what was going on. But perhaps the thing that really made this film great was the fact that this was a true story. Too bad that it only won three Oscars (best supporting actor Jason Robards, best adapted screenplay and art direction). This film was certainly miles ahead of what beat it out, the original Rocky.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut
to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it
This dramatization of how it was discovered that the burglary of the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D. C. was funded and directed by the Nixon White House is a lot better than it has any right to be. Given the tedious, non-glamorous and frankly boring leg- and phone-work that is often the lot of the investigative reporter, it is surprising that this is a very interesting movie even if you don't care two beans about the Watergate scandal. In fact, this is really more about how the story was put together than it is about the scandal itself. It is also a lot less political than might be expected.
It stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and they are good, with excellent support from Jason Robards (Oscar as Best Supporting Actor) playing Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, and Jane Alexander as an innocent caught up in the machinations. But what makes the movie work is the Oscar-winning script adapted from the Woodward and Bernstein best seller by that old Hollywood pro, William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969, Misery 1990, etc.). What he does so very well, even though we know the outcome, is to establish and maintain the tension as Woodward and Bernstein run all over town chasing leads and misdirections. He accomplishes this by putting just enough varied obstacles in the path of our intrepid reporters, notably the Washington bureaucracy and the understandably cautious senior editors at the Post.
The direction by Alan J. Pakula (Comes a Horseman 1978, Sophie's Choice 1982, etc.) focuses the scenes nicely, keeps the camera where it belongs, and highlights the story with a shadowy Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook), skitterish sources, and a vivid recreation of a top American newspaper at work. I was especially enthralled to see the interactions among the reporters, the editors and the sources. I thought they all looked and sounded authentic, Redford's good looks having nothing to do with the story, which was right, and Hoffman's flair for the intense reigned in, which was necessary. The diffidence of Alexander's character and the soft pushiness of Woodward and Bernstein were tempered just right. Bradlee's stewardship of the story and his ability to take a calculated risk seemed true to life.
Some details that stood out: Redford's hunt and peck typing contrasted with Hoffman's all fingers flying; the talking heads on the strategically placed TVs, reacting (via actual video footage) to the developing story--deny, deny, deny! of course. The thin reporter's spiral notebooks being pulled out and then later flipped through to find a quote. The bright lights of the newsroom looking expansive with all those desks as though there were mirrors on the walls extending an illusion. The seemingly silly tricks to get a source to confirm: just nod your head; I'll count to ten and if you're still on the line... And you know what I liked best? No annoying subplot!
The rather abrupt resolution with the teletype banging out the leads to a sequence of stories that led to President Nixon's resignation had just the right feel to it, especially for those of us who have actually experienced the goosepimply sensation that comes with watching a breaking story come in over the teletype. The quick wrap-up surprised me, but delighted me at the same time.
Bottom line: an excellent movie that wears well, a fine example of some of Hollywood's top professionals at work some thirty years ago. #30
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976) **** Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty. Superb adaptation of Washington Post's scathing historical expose by intrepid reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (played with energetic paranoia by Golden Boy and Dusty to perfection) on the infamous Watergate break-in and the ultimate downfall of the Nixon presidency with cover ups, cloak-and-dagger informant `Deep Throat', conspiracies and Washington as a fixed metaphor as a quagmire sucking down America's freedoms with only the dynamic duo as our only hope! Robards won a richly deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of crusty yet fair editor Ben Bradlee. Suspensefully directed by Alan J. Pakula. Look sharp for Polly Holliday (aka tv's `Flo') as a repellent secretary. Also won Oscars for Best Screenplay Adaptation by William Goldman, Art Direction and Sound. Alexander was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
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