All The President's Men
When Robert Redford announced he'd bought rights to "All the President's Men," people joked that reporters would become movie stars. But stars Redford as Woodward and Hoffman as Bernstein here become reporters without one "Hollywood moment." True to real journalism, we get a sea of names, dates, phone numbers, coincidences, lucky breaks, false leads, dogged footwork, denials, evasions, and at last, the truth. Thousands of such details led to Watergate and Nixon's resignation, and the movie gives a genuine study of working journalists in a mix of exhilaration, paranoia, self-doubt, and courage as the two young Washington Post reporters go after a President.
Newspaper movies used to show excitement and ignore the boredom, waiting, and tireless digging. Here, Pakula keeps Goldman's nearly-all-talk screenplay good and taut, and so well paced, acted, and edited that it develops momentum even when Woodward and Bernstein have doors slammed in their faces. The movie doesn't force its characters to the center, despite obvious temptation to pick up the pace with subplots about their private lives. But the film sticks to the story: In near-disbelief, two reporters cover and follow a minor break-in all the way to the White House. The movie aptly portrays the reporters' professional lives, especially their interaction with editors. What begins as a local story becomes a thorn in the side of the Post's powerful national staff, but Woodward and Bernstein keep it their own. The metro editor, Harry Rosenfeld (Jack Warden), both defends and badgers the pair; Balsam as Managing Editor Simons and Robards as Executive Editor Benjamin Bradle hold a news conference like pros. The movie's many small roles satisfyingly include Frank Wills - the guard who found the telltale tape on a Watergate lock - playing himself. Robert Walden makes a memorable Donald Segretti, the "dirty tricks expert" whose bravery ebbs into despair, and two key informants are portrayed in interesting ways. Ms. Alexander as a bookkeeper is plain, honest, and scared; Hal Holbrook, as "Deep Throat," is the disturbingly detached mysterious source inside Nixon's administration. All of it makes "All the President's Men" a film to be praised, It's long but not dull, thanks to the wizardry of Pakula, his actors and technicians, and especially considering the phony "newspaper movie" it could have been.
Alan J. Pakula
Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jane Alexander,
Watergate break-in, Woodward and Bernstein, Nixon, deep thro
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