All the President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula, 1976): USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the AFI Fest Presented by Audi, Egyptian Theater, Hollywood, CA.

  A special presentation of  All the President’s Men  was part of the Cinema’s Legacy tribute, at the AFI Fest presented by Audi, in which important writers, directors, producers and actors are asked to choose a film to screen, that in some way contributed to their career.  Writer Aaron Sorkin introduced the film, and explained to the audience how this was considered a story of the “recent past,” since the Watergate Scandal broke just a few years prior to the release of the film.  He equated it with his recent work on 2010’s Social Network, whereas the facts regarding the story of Facebook occurred only a few years ago.

After a break-in at the DNC Headquarters, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) believe this otherwise minor story to be newsworthy, when they discover that all five burglars had ties to the CIA.  After connecting a series of dots, Woodward and Bernstein realize it’s a much bigger story leading all the way to the Whitehouse and President Nixon’s committee to re-elect.

Their Exec Editor Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards) does not believe they have sufficient material for front page status and implores each to dig deeper.  Although the two men have conflicting approaches to gaining confidences, they eventually learn to work as a team and compliment each other’s style.  Berstein is direct and pushy, almost to the point of forcing himself into witnesses homes, while Woodward is more intuitive and soon secures the anonymous help of an in-house operative known only as Deep Throat.  As the reporters continue to follow new leads, the facts get uglier involving slush funds, covert ops, and U.S. Intelligence, which eventually leads to the first presidential resignation.

As the two men are at odds with each other in the beginning we in fact see them working a noticeable distance apart in a vast news room.  Over a period of time, as they learn to accept each other’s strengths, they physically are in closer proximity and we eventually see them within the confines of limited space.  The film is fast-paced, intriguing from beginning to end, and based on real events.  It’s a political thriller along the same vein as others from the 1970’s, such as Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man or The Boys from Brazil – all of which I highly recommend.

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