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Saturday, 28 October 2017

Retro Review: All The President's Men (1976)

All The President's Men
Cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards
Genre: Political Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $70 million

Plot: The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon's resignation

'Well Acted & An Authentic Look At Journalism, But Lacks Engagement & Entertainment As A Spectacle'

Based on the book by Carl Bernstein as portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, All The President's Men was directed by Alan J Pakula, who is most notably responsible for 1993's smash hit, The Pelican Brief starring Julia Roberts. Having watched and thoroughly enjoyed that film, what with the action and tension, which whilst others may seem to be more sensationalist, I thought really galvanised the film itself and along with Roberts's impressive performance & the contemporary feel, made The Pelican Brief an at times exhilarating and suspenseful, but also an engaging and a rather accessible affair.

In All The President's Men, Robert Redford portrays Bob Woodward: a journalist for The Washington Post who has been in the job for six months & he teams up with a pro in Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), and the two reporters attempt to bring down the Nixon administration, after the wake of two political scandals. 

I went into this film not expecting anything that is too Hollywood and flashy- looking as a motion picture but with curiosity at how All The President's Men will fare and obtain and hold my attention. Whilst political thriller movies have been all the range, films about investigative journalism are very few and far between; Additionally, movies based on conspiracies and conspiracy theories have been around for a long time: some are good - ala The Pelican Brief, with others such as Conspiracy Theory of 1997, being not so good. 

All The President's Men takes a very restrained approach & yet unlike The Pelican Brief, this one has no elaborate chase scenes, no huge score, no emotional moments: it is straight to the point and operates as a conventional and traditional drama, set in political and journalistic contexts. & with that, it feels more organic and there is a sense of authenticity and urgency that it omits. 

Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford make for a good team and they bring that authority, assertiveness and all those years of acting experience to the forefront. Redford is more reserved and less gung-go, whereas Hoffman here is slightly more erratic, but not feisty or arrogant. They help elevate this movie to be slightly more - if no more watchable, although I wished the story had been a tad more engaging for me to get into it fully. All The President's Men was somewhat difficult for me to engage in and it was hard to follow and for general and casual audiences including myself, who aren't familiar with the ins and outs of the Watergate scandal, this is one of a few shortcomings I had with the film. The other issue I had was the story was also all over the place and it just wasn't succinct. 

Other than that, this is thoroughly well-written, the dialogue is smart and extremely well-conceived & is a film that demonstrates the pros and the good side of journalism. 

Final Verdict:

All The President's Men is a pretty good film for those who are studying journalism at college or university; it's well-crafted, intelligent and doesn't insult or talk down to the audience with its take on journalism. It never becomes condescending. 

But with its grounded approach, it still somehow made the subject far less intense and engaging than it deserves to be & the story needed to be more enamouring. It did little to withhold my attention. Which is why I loved The Pelican Brief: that film is very much similar to All The President's Men; in fact, the premise and the set-up are so very much identical to All The President's Men, but with those extra punches, that suspense and action sequences, they really energised the film & enabled me to invest interest in the story and the film itself, as well as the performances. 

I so wished that had been the same case for this movie and that Pakula had approached it as vigorously but also not as a flashy centrepiece, but as an entertaining spectacle. It's definitely worth seeing for Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford alone and their performances and if you are truly into political movies. 

Yet for everyone else, for those of you who want something more gripping but also is a lot more accessible, give The Pelican Brief a go. 


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