Sometimes you forget how powerful a storytelling medium film can be until you watch a truly great movie. Such is the case with Alan J Pakula’s masterpiece All the President’s Men. Goodness knows why it has taken me 45 years to finally watch it.
Recent events in US politics, and indeed the years leading up to them, may have de-sensitised some to political corruption or at least ruined their appetite for movies about political corruption. Fret thee not as All the President’s Men is less a film about politics, rather the investigative journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal which eventually led to the impeachment of 37th US president Richard Nixon.
Based upon Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's non-fiction book of the same name, the movie cast Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein and Robert Redford as Woodward as they doggedly probe the murky details surrounding the 1972 break-in and burglary of the Democratic Nation Committee headquarters in the Washington DC's Watergate complex. Risking their careers and their lives to expose the perpetrators of the felony, tracing it all the way back to the main man himself, president Nixon.
There is surprisingly little action in All The President's Men, indeed much of the 'action' is made up of two guys on the telephone. Yet it is as taut and tense as any thriller you have seen, with Pakula’s steady direction a masterclass in pacing. As you would expect, the cast is flawless. Much of the movie is shot in closeup and the intensity of the performances is right up on the screen in the faces of Redford and Hoffman; the movie proving an acting showcase for two of Hollywood's most enduring and appealing leading men. Excellent support comes from Jack Warden, Martin Balsam and Jason Robards as the Post editors and a short but scene stealing appearance from Ned Beatty, similar in tone to his brief role in the same year's Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976). Special mention must be made to the late Hal Holbrook who is especially effective in the small but important role as the shady informant Deep Throat.
What could have been a dry account of worthy journalistic endeavor is, instead an enthralling and exciting masterpiece. All the President's Men wholly lives up to it reputation as one the most important films of its era and arguably the greatest political film of all time. Highly recommended for even those with no interest in politics and journalism.