A more accurate title for this post would have “film 18” instead of “day 18” because I actually watched two movies today to make up for not watching something yesterday. Anyhoo, the eighteenth film in this challenge is the 1976 film All the President’s Men.
I chose to watch this film because I had watched Spotlight last year in theaters, and it was hailed as the All the President’s Men of our generation. I loved Spotlight, which is the Oscar nominated film about how the Boston Globe broke their Pulitzer-winning story on abuse in the Catholic Church, so I decided to watch All the President’s Men to see why the two films have been likened to each other.
All the President’s Men follows the true story of two reporters from The Washington Post, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), and their journey in breaking one of America’s greatest political scandals. When five burglars are arrested for breaking into the Watergate complex, The Washington Post assigns new reporter Bob Woodward to the story, thinking it is a minor event. However, Woodward soon realizes that one of the burglars has ties to the CIA, and he starts to dig deeper into the case and realizes this seemingly simple burglary is a small piece of something bigger and graver. Fellow reporter Carl Bernstein also jumps on this Watergate story, and as they continue to investigate, they find themselves caught in a political conspiracy that leads them right up to America’s highest ranks and puts themselves and the lives of their sources in danger.
The film is based on a book written by Woodward and Bernstein about their work on investigating and reporting the Watergate Scandal. Robert Redford purchased the rights to the book and made it into this movie.
Although All the President’s Men is one of those films where you know how things will end, since history tells us the reporters will break the Watergate scandal, which causes President Nixon to resign, I still found the movie exciting to watch. From its cinematography, which plays with light and shadow to create an aura of suspense and danger, to the story’s development, which builds up to its climax in a Hitchcockian style, All the President’s Men successfully turns this Washington Post investigation into a gripping political thriller.
The film does take some creative license and cuts out or combines key characters from the actual investigation. But that is understandable, for if the movie included every detail and character involved in this huge investigation, the film would go way beyond its already long run time of 2 hours 18 min. Also, a film has to be somewhat entertaining for audiences to watch, so some of the changes made to the story were necessary for making this movie exciting to watch. Overall, based on some research I did after the film, All the President’s Men didn’t stray far from what happened in reality, but if you’re picky about historical accuracy and details, then this film may not be for you.
All the President’s Men does somewhat glamorize journalism, making the life of a reporter seem as exciting as Sherlock Holmes or a secret agent out to crack a case, but it does remain true in its portrayal of journalistic values. The frustrations Woodward and Bernstein experience in confirming sources and their tips depict journalism’s high regard shown for accuracy.
All the President’s Men also shows the importance of having a free press to check powerful institutions, such as the government. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Spotlight has been compared to this film, for Spotlight deals with checking another powerful institution, the Catholic Church. Both films also show the tenacious spirit of reporters in uncovering the truth and the sharpness with which they approach their investigations, and both movies tell these stories in a way that completely captivates their audience.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Title: All the President’s Men
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Writer: William Goldman
Cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook
Run time: 2 hrs 18 min