Review: All the President’s Men

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Directed by: Alan J. Pakula

Written by: William Goldman

Starring: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards

Rating: [4.5/5]

Exposing the truth has become one of my favorite film genres as done in this film and something like Spotlight. Nothing incredibly flashy or all that revelatory in its filmmaking style, but it shows what it takes to flash a light into the darkness created by powerful individuals willing to do heinous things to remain in power. In the case of All the President’s Men, it centers on the Watergate scandal. 

By being placed to cover this minor story, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) look into it and discover that this simple break-in has reprocussions that extend all the way to the president of the United States.

Efficiency is something I have come to appreciate in filmmaking. As much as I enjoy all of the frills and the meaning in slow-burn films, something like All the President’s Men feels like a good sandwich. Nothing flashy, but it absolutely gets the job done. It does so by focusing simply on the characters and telling the story of what occurred during their investigations. It focused on their conversations and what their discovery could mean to the rest of the world without getting too hung up on dramatic plot points that could have been inserted. 

It displays phenomenal acting by Robert Redford, who passionately fought for this film to be made and released to the public. Redford has the uncanny ability to do so much by doing so little. Many of his most prominent scenes take place when he answers phone calls to retrieve and attain information. The camera focuses on his eyes and they tell much of the story through his excitement or dread depending on what he just heard from the other line. It shows his raw acting ability that has made him a legend beyond his good looks. He knew of the importance this story held and putting together with his great performance only makes the entire project all the better. 

Much of the credit for this film’s success must also go to William Goldman, who created a tight screenplay that made this film run so smoothly. The story involved plenty of talking between Woodward and Goldstein, in addition to speaking to sources and others involved. With a talk-heavy screenplay, a good writer must utilize each phrase to have an impact and keep it engaging. Goldman did just that by having every interaction mean something within the scope of the story and the grand scheme of the entire investigation. The story zips right by, going from scene to scene and I never felt lost even with a large amount of information that needed to be conveyed. 

Not only does the film tell a tremendous story, but it also shows the power and the importance of a free press for a functioning democracy.  For Woodward and Bernstein to effectively accomplish their goal, they needed the freedom to do so, which was given to them by the rights given to the press. It shows the incredible investigatory work that can be completed by motivated individuals to make the public aware of massive abuse of power occurring in the nation. Similarly, it shows how some of the biggest stories that can define a decade start incredibly small. This film showed that the entire Watergate story began with a simple break-in. From there the individuals involved showed connections to one individual and that map continued until it reached the President of the United States. A story that was given to some young reporter ended up being one of the biggest scandals in American history. It shows the importance of due diligence and how this could have easily been swept under the rug. Instead, two great reporters uncovered something incredibly troubling and worth bringing forward.

All the President’s Men hits all of the right buttons of a tremendous feature film. It took a story that had bombastic potential and put it together in an efficient manner. It shows incredible chemistry from the actors to the director and writer. An incredible combination that did nothing but assist the overall production into one of the great American films. No real frills or daring artistic choices, but this story did not require such additions. It knew that it wanted to tell and did it exceptionally well.

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