Of all the films that I have seen all my life there are a few which I have seen the most number of times as is customary. And of all those films that I have seen the most number of times, there are some which I have seen even more times. All The President’s Men will rank right there among Goodfellas, JFK, Casino and a host of other films. One has to admit that films are stories and every story well told is a picture of beauty. But then there are those stories which are of epic proportions. They tend to pan over such a huge canvas that it becomes almost impossible to accommodate them in one film. The Watergate scandal which resulted in the denouncement of a President of the United States is just one such story. Credit has to be given to the Writer duo of the journalist Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) who documented every detail of their investigation of the Water Gate scandal as they went on publishing their reports.
By the time the Washington Post was able to come up with the expose, the duo had touched almost every high ranking official of the country and incidentally realized that the whole secret service machinery was involved in the scandal. In this film, the director Alan J. Pakula effectively portrays the two journalists as the protagonists through whose eyes, the story unfolds. The film starts off with the arrest of the five burglars at the Water Gate, followed by the investigation both from the part of the government as well as the two journalists with the audience basically seeing the events unfold through the eyes of the journalists. The climax shows us the result of the long and arduous investigation that Woodward and Bernstein had taken and also the fall of a president.
All The President’s Men, is one of the most tightly packed films. It has so much material to work with that it must have been a problem for the director to decide what to show and what not to show. Every second of the film is interesting and from the initial slow buildup to the almost breakneck speed of the second half. The film is almost a documentary look at the happening with the two lead actors transforming into the duo of reporters within moments of the beginning of the narrative. The film works just as well as a thriller. Even though most of us know the outcome of the investigation, there is a sense of surprise and awe that every reel is dripping wet with.
Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman turn in one of their career best performances. The two actors get into the skin of the character and bring out every nuance that is asked of the situations. There are some scenes which are standout. The initial scene where Redford lands up in court trying to pry into the whole affair, the way he starts his association with Dustin Hoffman’s Bernstein, his scenes with his deep undercover deep throat are sensational. Dustin Hoffman on the other hand is the more temperamental. He is not afraid of taking risk or for that matter stumbling upon the biggest and most powerful. He also has his way around data and has his own unique way of interpreting it. The rest of the supporting cast is just as good. Jason Robards as Bradley is tough and his interactions with the journalists are clinical. Martin Balsam as Howard Simmons is also top notch.
All The President’s Men is one of those rare classics which is bound to entertain and enlighten. It is one of those films which can be watched and rewatched. It is the kind film which is packed with so much material that one would be able to enjoy it varying levels. Some might look at it as a thriller while other will see at as a commentary on an important political fiasco in the history of the modern world.