“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
“The story is dry. All we’ve got are pieces. We can’t seem to figure out what the puzzle is supposed to look like.”
Watergate is one of the biggest scandals in modern history. So big, you know a scandal is a big deal these days when it gets post-fixed with ‘gate’. It was such a big scandal, it was still a thing of common knowledge when I was growing up on the other side of the world several decades after it went down. Making a movie about such a well known, infamous event is a risk. When a story is this notorious and well known, people already have their own version in their heads. And when it’s based on real life events, a lot of the audience is going to consider themselves already an expert. Which is why the huge success of All the President’s Men at the time, and the way it’s held up to this day, are such great achievements.
After a robbery at the Democratic Party’s national headquarters, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) is sent to the courthouse to cover the seemingly innocuous story. Back in the newsroom, scrappy reporter Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) can’t help sticking his nose in, sniffing out a big story. Initially adversarial, Woodward and Bernstein soon realise that their opposing styles compliment each other perfectly.
When their initial articles get the attention of an anonymous informer nicknamed Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook), he tips the reporters off to follow the money. Soon there are financial connections between the Watergate burgers and the Committee to Re-Elect the President, Richard Nixon. At first seen as a bit of an indulgence, the Washington Post big wigs (Jason Robards and Jack Warden) realise that their young reporters are onto something big, and the whole paper gets behind them.
For a movie that’s essentially two blokes making a lot of phone calls and spending the majority of their time tapping away on typewriters, All the President’s Men is surprisingly tense and almost action packed. We all know the story of Watergate and what Nixon’s cronies did. And when this move came out, the incident was only five years old and still super fresh in everyone’s mind. Which is why it was such a great decision to focus more on how Woodward and Bernstein conducted their investigation, and less on what they uncovered.
Redford and Hoffman have been Hollywood A-listers for decades. And it’s movies like All the President’s Men that let you know why. If someone was seeing them for the first time today, in a move like Chef or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I think that person would see some gravitas from these dudes, even if they didn’t know why. All the President’s Men is one very big reason why.
Best Director (Pakula nominated, lost to John G Avildsen for Rocky)
Best Picture (nominated, lost to Rocky)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor – Jason Robards