All the President’s Men (1976)

Director: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Robert Redford
Runtime: 138 mins
Rating: *****

A 1976 film based on the 1974 non-fiction book of the same name by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (who are here played by Robert Redford and a simply brilliant Dustin Hoffman), All the President’s Men is a personal account of two journalists investigating the infamous Watergate scandal for The Washington Post. Though ostensibly a political thriller with roots in the detective genre, All the President’s Men excitingly and urgently transcends the tiresome and monotonous process of information gathering through taut and unfussy direction by Alan J. Pakula.

The best scenes are in the office, with both men working frantically on the phone, trying to follow all possible leads that will drag their story from the inner pages of the newspaper onto the front page headline above the fold.

Thanks to the realism of the office dialogue, filled with detail and jargon-diluted journalist talk (sometimes near-impossible to follow) and helped by an Oscar-winning performance from Jason Robards as executive editor Ben Bradlee, this sharp observation becomes increasingly compelling as the plot unfolds.

It is a compliment to Pakula’s efficient and assured approach that despite the fact we know the general outcome of its events, the film remains no less intriguing as a result of it. All the President’s Men is an intelligent, poignant statement; a fascinating time capsule of the cut-throat nature of reporting 30 years ago, and the story of how a newspaper stubbornly stood toe-to-toe with the White House in the search for the truth behind what would become probably the biggest political scandal of the century.

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