Sunday, January 15, 2012

All the President’s Men

Based on the book of the same name by journalists turned investigators Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, All the President’s Men, released in 1976 and directed by Alan J Pakula (Sophie’s choice) and starring Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) and Robert Redford (The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), is an account of the coverage by The Washington Post of the Watergate scandal.
The story of their investigation is told step by step and is not easy to follow, better be quick and have a good memory of names…..While you can probably read and get information about the Watergate scandal, the film is mostly about how to turn a hunch into a big story that eventually leads to Nixon’s resignation. It’s about journalists methods, tricks, relationship with their sources, how to connect dots, how to convince, both editors and readers. All in all, I have to admit this is a great version of what investigative journalism is.
Bernstein and Woodward, the reporters who covered this story, are played by Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford respectively and we follow them from day 1, the day of the Watergate burglary, treated as insignificant by other press, until Nixon's last day in office. We see a lot of the day-to-day life in a newsroom, and not computers :) Old fashioned typewriters, it was, at the time! We see the inside politics of the newspaper, with Executive director Ben Bradlee (played by Jason Robards) making the final decisions. Jason Robars won the Oscar of Supporting Actor.
Bradlee: Bernstein, are you sure on this story?
Bernstein: Absolutely.
Bradlee: Woodward?
Bernstein: I'm sure.
Bradlee: I'm not. It still seems thin.
Simons: Get another source.

Bradlee: Now hold it, hold it. We're about to accuse Haldeman, who only happens to be the second most important man in this country, of conducting a criminal conspiracy from inside the White House. It would be nice if we were right.
We see Deep Throat, the mysterious informant who helped the story to be made public, whose name inspired many of sources in different films over the years (even in TV show X-Files, if I remember correctly!) with his famous clue about who is involved: "Follow the money!". Nowadays we know he was a FBI director but at the time only Woodward and Berstein (nicknamed “Woodstein”) knew of his identity. The meeting scenes in the parking lot give just the amount of tension and suspense that is needed. While the danger is very palpable, it is also a refreshing change from current films: nowadays to show danger and suspense you’d had have least a few shots and maybe a bomb set off somewhere, for good measure. Maybe some beating up scenes, too. Or menacing phone calls. But here the enemy lies in the shadows, present, but impossible to be seen, impossible to be detected, not moving. Which makes its presence even more real.
Hoffman and Redford are both great, embracing their characters and giving them just that accent of authenticity. They’re equally great, impossible to say who’s best. The only critic I’d have is that I found it a bit slow generally, and was disappointed by the ending, which I felt was wrapped up very quickly. I understood the irony of seeing Nixon’s acceptance speech in 1973 while the two journalists keep typing away, but I thought the link to Nixon was made explicitly. Other than that, nothing bad to say. Highly recommended.

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