In the second part of my look at films revolving around Nixon is probably one of the most famous political films ever made, All The President’s Men, with the focus here being on the investigation into Watergate. In discussing the Nixon presidency, Watergate has to be a major focus and as such, the work of the reporters that broke the story needs to be given a great deal of care and respect and this is a case where that respect has been given.
The plot focuses on the efforts of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to uncover the full details of the Watergate break-in, despite no-one else at the Washington Post thinking that it’s an important story at first. Over the course of the film, with the help of anonymous source Deep Throat, they realise that Watergate goes all the way up to the President. What makes the film work so well is that it takes its time going into every detail of the investigation, we see every phone call Woodward and Bernstein make, we see all the mistakes that they make and the constant research they do (including the famous scene when they go to the Library of Congress). This focus on every single detail of the investigation could have been boring if there wasn’t a great script to back it up but the script here is so tight and the direction so good that the pace is kept really strong and there is never a boring part, despite there being many parts where Woodward and Bernstein end up making no progress. The scenes where they make no progress though help add to the sense that the story is being blocked by the Nixon administration. I also really like that there isn’t really any focus on the private lives of Woodward and Bernstein, the entire focus is on the Watergate investigation. This could have led to there being a lack of character development but instead the film doesn’t need it, all the scenes of character development that could be provided by including families are covered by conversations between editors and sources. There is also the overall believability of the scenes in the newsroom. The attention to detail is excellent with old phone books and chairs being used, some even being bought from the Washington Post offices, along with the overall tone present during news conferences being really believable with there only being one or two good stories amidst the monotony of the rest of it.
The cast is excellent as well. The highlights are, of course, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein. They have a great chemistry with each other, letting you know how well they work with each other and this, along with both actors constantly interrupting each other, letting you know that Woodward and Bernstein fully understood the styles that they had and the interrupting feels really natural for the characters. There is also the fact that they bring across the air of journalists who are in way over their heads, which is an aspect that is really needed for these characters. Hal Holbrook is also excellent as Deep Throat. He has this air of intelligence but also knows that he cannot say too much unless his cover is blown and the speaking in riddles really works for the overall tone of the film. There are also great performances by Jack Warden, Martin Balsam and Jason Robards as the main team at the Washington Post, showing the growing respect that the paper has for the investigation that Woodward and Bernstein are undertaking and that there is a level of integrity that all the reporters need to have in order to be respected and we see Woodward and Bernstein earn this integrity through Watergate. There are also great performances from Robert Warden, Jane Alexander and Ned Beatty, rounding off an excellent cast.
Overall, All the President’s Men is a justifiable classic in the political film catalogue. The performances are uniformly excellent and the really tight script makes sure that there isn’t a single wasted second, fully immersing the viewer in the experience of Woodward and Bernstein and this is a quality that is hard for any film to achieve.
My Rating: 5/5