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Review: All the President’s Men (1976)

All the President’s Men (1976) 

Directed by: Alan J. Pakula

Premise: The true story of Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) who broke the Watergate story, which eventually brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon.

What Works: This is an exciting journalism story told at a brisk pace. What films of this kind need to do, and All the President’s Men is exemplary, is comb through the facts and assemble them in a way that is streamlined enough to be dramatically engaging but also credibly convey all necessary elements of the story. The scenes of interrogation by Woodward and Bernstein are some of the best parts of the film and the editing and cinematography provide the urgency. One of the most interesting parts of the film, one that these kinds of stories rarely get into, is the difficulty for the journalists to uncover the facts of the case, and how easily they could be misled and blow the story.

What Doesn’t: The film is a product of its time and assumes that the audience knows a lot more about the fallout of the events than the contemporary viewer might. There are key points between the publication of the story, the resignation of Nixon, and the future of the country that are only graced over at the very end of the film.

DVD extras: None.

Bottom Line: All the President’s Men is an important historical film that makes for good viewing alongside Oliver Stone’s Nixon. The film’s lessons about the power of media and the challenges of journalism are still relevant today and the well-crafted detective story has held up over the years.

Episode: #58 (July 3, 2005)