All the President’s Men

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All the President’s Men

USA, Warner Bors.,1976
Director: Alan Pakula (1928-1998)
Writer: William Goldman (screenplay from book by Woodward & Bernstein)
Cast: Robert Redford, Dustan Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, Jane Alexander.

“All the President’s Men” has to be the best American political film of all time. Yes, I know you will all suggest “Manchurian Candidate” as another possible one, but I think this one is the best. It was timely; it was based on a book well-written and filled with solid reporting; it is brilliantly acted by Redford and Hoffman (+ all the others); it is filled with tension and excitement (the garage scenes are frightening); it has everything; it was a huge success (William Fredlund)

“All the President’s Men” provides the most observant study of working journalists we’re ever likely to see in a feature film (Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein may at last, merciful God, replace Hildy Johnson and Walter Burns as career models). And it succeeds brilliantly in suggesting the mixture of exhilaration, paranoia, self-doubt, and courage that permeated the Washington Post as its two young reporters went after a presidency.

Newspaper movies always used to play up the excitement and ignore the boredom and the waiting. This one is all about the boredom and the waiting and the tireless digging; it depends on what we already know about Watergate to provide a level of excitement. And yet, given the fact that William Goldman’s screenplay is almost all dialogue, almost exclusively a series of scenes of people talking (or not talking) to each other, director Alan J. Pakula has done a remarkable job of keeping the pace taut. 

Who’d have thought you could build tension with scenes where Bernstein walks over to Woodward’s desk and listens in on the extension phone? But you can. And the movie’s so well paced, acted, and edited that it develops the illusion of momentum even in the scenes where Woodward and Bernstein are getting doors slammed in their faces.

 (See the whole Ebert review at

History of Film at The Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, Feb 20, 2010.