Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All the President's Men

1972 was a difficult year in America. The Vietnam War raged on, the economy was stalling and the country was at odds with itself. It was also a Presidential election year and the incumbent, Richard Nixon, did not want to vacate the White House just yet. We now know that Nixon and his minions spent millions of dollars on lies and dirty tricks to keep him in the Oval Office. We have also learned of Nixon's intense paranoia and how that paranoia seeped into the reelection campaign. We know these things because of 2 reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. They spent thousands of hours working this story to expose a corrupt administration and bring some of them to justice. This film tells that amazing story.

All the President's Men is an exciting and compelling film about very boring actions. Woodward and Bernstein, or "Woodstein" as they would later be called, spent months uncovering small details about a burglary of the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate hotel in Washington, D.C. We now know that this burglary was orchestrated by the Nixon White House to "bug" the Democratic offices to gain information for the election. Even though Nixon had a huge lead in the polls and was running against a candidate that he chose, his fear would not let him relax. The dirty tricks, false press releases, smear campaigns and illegal break ins continued.

Phone calls, doors slammed in their faces and research in a library don't make for the most exciting cinema, but actors Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman along with Director Alan J. Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman make this a fascinating, fast-paced movie. The film is played like a detective novel. Hard-working reporters follow up leads in an effort to find the truth. Woodward even has a secret source, dubbed "Deep Throat", with whom he had clandestine meetings in the wee hours of the night in parking garages. By playing this like a 30s crime drama, perhaps starring Bogart and Cagney, we find tension through-out this excellent film.
The direction is tight, the script top-notch and the acting strong. Hal Holbrook, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards and Jack Warden all lend their considerable skills to the fine ensemble to add more depth and dimension to this historic detective work.

Jason Robards won the Best Supporting Actor for his fine work while William Goldman won for Best Screenplay. All the President's Men won 4 Oscars and was nominated for 4 others including Best Picture and Best Director. This is a fine film about an amazing piece of American history.

Filmed in 1976, directed by Alan J. Pakula, written by William Goldman from the book by Woodward and Bernstein, starring Robert Redford, Dusting Hoffman, Hal Holbrook, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards and Jack Warden. One important note: Robert Redford so believed in this project that he, personally, bought the movie rights to the book for $450,000. He wanted to insure that the film captured the diligence of the reporters and showed the historic nature of the events.

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