Friday, November 7, 2008

All the President's Men (1976)

Their obsession for a good story brought down a president.

This Oscar winning 1976 film is about Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the biggest story of the 1970's - that of the Watergate scandal. It originally seemed like a small story, a break-in at the Democratic headquarters, but because of these two young men doggedly going after the facts, it brought down a president.

Starring Dustin Hoffman as the chain-smoking and quirky Bernstein, and Robert Redford as the more sophisticated Woodward, there is a chemistry between them which gave them the impetus to push way beyond the limits of what the story required, and as one discovery led to another, build on the accumulated details to go even further. Both the men were good at sizing up people, and the film shows how, in one interview after another, they got each interviewee to reveal those details that could fit into the king-size puzzle that they had taken on. Martin Balsam, cast as the managing editor, wanted to give the job to more senior reporters, but as Jack Warden, the metro editor, pointed out, the two young men had a passion for the story that was very special. Jason Robards, the executive editor, was quick to question all their facts, but generally supported them all the way.

Throughout, there are lots of shots of the massiveness of the tall buildings in contrast to the smallness of the men. And, when it came to the secret informer who they called "Deep Throat", those scenes were cast in shadow. The pacing was excellent and the there was tension throughout, which kept me fascinated even though I knew the eventual outcome. This story became an obsession with the two reporters and it seemed as if nothing would stop them. Occasionally, it got a bit repetitive, but that is the nature of good reporting, which can also be called good detective work.

The film brought back the reality of the 1970s, from the hairstyles to the manual typewriters. I found myself thinking about the cell phones and computers we take for granted today, as I watched them pour through phone directories as well as thousands of library take-out slips as they followed up on every clue. The acting, of course, was excellent as well the screenplay, which focused entirely on the news story, rather than becoming maudlin with the personal lives of the men. I give this film a high recommendation. It's definitely worth seeing. By Linda Linguvic


[Classic Movie Trailer] "All the President's Men" (HQ)

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