Tuesday, March 17, 2015

609. All the President's Men (1976)

Running Time: 138 minutes
Directed By: Alan J. Pakula
Written By: William Goldman, from book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Main Cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook
Click here to view the trailer


For the curious, Tarkovsky's The Mirror has arrived from Netflix and I'll be watching it as soon as I get the time. However, I'll be spending the next two days with my wife, watching loads of movies I'm sure, yet I doubt I'll convince her to watch it with me. We'll see...Anyway, I nabbed All the President's Men off of TCM last month during the channel's 31 Days of Oscar marathon and it's been sitting on my DVR ever since. Let's get down to business...

So the whole thing is about Watergate and while I'm sure I can't put it all down on paper (or rather, computer screen) I'll do my damndest. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are reporters for the Washington Post, circa 1972 - in a day when newspapers still had some sort of relevance. We get started when five men break into the Watergate complex, which also happens to be headquarters for the Democratic National Committee. They're later accused of bugging the place and caught thieving important documents, which of course, they plan to destroy. The men are later identified as four Cuban Americans and James McCord, the latter of which is later identified as a CIA officer (or was he a former CIA man by this time, either way...). Woodward makes an appearance at the preliminary hearing of the five men and smells a rat, which gets the whole movie rolling, full speed. Enter Carl Bernstein who smells the same rat and the two reporters are on the case, tracing this thing all the way up the chain of governmental command. Jack Warden plays the boys' direct superior at the Post and Jason Robards enters as the Executive editor. Okay, so I didn't try my damndest to explain everything, but that's the gist of it.

I've realized that I'm the type of person that if I can't understand every aspect of a story, then my whole brain falls apart and wants to reject everything. The long and short of Watergate is that top government officials leading all the way up to then President of the United States Richard Nixon himself, were accused of breaking in to democratic headquarters, which was housed at the Watergate office building, and bugging the place, as well as destroying important documents or stealing documents that could be used against the democrats. The ones who broke in, were affiliated with the Committee to Re-Elect the President, which again, at the time was Nixon - a Republican. That's it. Yet, when words like "slush fund", CREEP (which stupid me finally realized was simply an abbreviation for Committee to Re-Elect the President) and then adding to that DOZENS of names, it gets a little sloshy in my head. I mean, they're rapid firing names at you like Dahlberg, McCord, Colson, Hunt, Porter, Mitchell, Haldeman, Sloan, Segretti and a bunch more and in my head, there's a little man filling out index cards left & right, trying to keep everyone in order. Who was Sloan again? What about Hunt? WHO'S COLSON!? It was frustrating to be trying to keep such things straight in what was such a good movie that I just wanted to fully understand.

And ultimately, I DID enjoy All the President's Men, so much that I would like to buy Woodward and Bernstein's book and maybe even Watergate for Dummies, so that I can understand it all a little better. And that's saying something, because no matter how many movies I watched for THE BOOK about World War II or the Russian Revolution or whatever, I've VERY RARELY thought about buying literature to bone up on the subject further. Of course Redford and Hoffman were great and the whole paranoid feeling of this movie was just great. Why can't fiction writers think up things this compelling? I'll tell you why, because while watching this there's that lingering feeling in the back of your head where you keep telling yourself, "Oh my God, this all actually happened and it's insane". Are newspapers still as relevant today as they were back then? Are newspaper reporters still snooping and hunting, spending hours on end in libraries trying to break the case, just so they can be the lead in the following morning's edition? I tend to think not, but then again, what do I know? I also wonder about the mental state of Alan J. Pakula - was he really as paranoid as his movie's suggested or did he just like paranoia stories? Who knows. Despite not understanding every facet, the whole film still had this overwhelming feeling of corruption and watching Woodward & Bernstein run around, back and froth, to and fro, was just as good as reading a Mickey Spillane novel or a watching Perry Mason (two things I've never done, but I'm assuming). I'd deduct points simply because I'm not a history buff and simply because I was lost at times, but I'd surely call the film a must see and have no objections to it being in THE BOOK. Man, it must have been a scary time to be living in the seventies. You had Vietnam and a President who indeed WAS a crook. No wonder the drugs were flowing like Deer Park.

RATING: 7/10  Like I said, I just have to deduct a few points, just because, but I did really enjoy this and I even watched part of this late at night, on a work night no less, meaning it was good enough to keep me awake. That's saying something. One last queston: Was All the President's Men (the book) about Watergate and the scandal or was it about Woodward and Bernstein themselves investigating the story?


March 17, 2015  10:26am


  1. Prrhaps a bit of a surprise you went for this, knowing your previously stated aversion to political films.. and I guess you cannot get more 'political' than this one!
    It's some time since I saw this, so i guess i have forgotten most of the confusion. Although I was decidedly 'there at the time', and remember the whole thing of watergate unfolding before our eyes.. being 'a foreigner', a heck of a lot of the who-is-who washed over me. Same with the complexities in the film. A bit like some plots in some of my favourite Noirs (after several watchings, even I'm not sure if I follow everything in 'Big Sleep').
    But I can recall rating this and feeling I understood, even if I probably didn't.

    1. Good to know I wasn't the only one a bit confused by all the information that was being thrown out.


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