the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Friday, May 05, 2006

All the President's Men

For the past year or so, I have been writing film and TV reviews at Here are synopsis' and links to those reviews.

It seems fitting that as masterful and important a film as All the President’s Men came out as a Special Edition DVD the same year as its philosophical cousin, Good Night, and Good Luck hit the big screen. Both films are about journalists speaking truth to power, the tremendous pressure that is brought to bear on their efforts and their ultimate triumph in the battle to preserve democracy, liberty and governmental integrity.

Seldom do actual events and their filmic interpretations bear much resemblance to one another. Hollywood cannot help but glamorize and embellish the truth in an effort to titilize audiences. Such exaggeration was unnecessary with All the President’s Men (or with Good Night, and Good Luck for that matter). Here is a film of staggering authenticity that came ready-made with all the suspense, intrigue and stratagems an audience could hope for. And it is all true.

Yet the film transcends even that praise. For in the midst of its pointed accuracy, it is also damn good filmmaking—inspirational, moving and genuinely elevating.

All the President’s Men is a thriller. While there may not be scenes of bombastic or life-imperiled action, there is cloak-and-dagger espionage, cover-ups and death threats. The weapons of this film are not guns and bombs, but typewriters and telephones. It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword, and this film, and the facts it is based upon, prove that axiom. That All the President’s Men is as thrilling and taut a film as it still remains to this day is a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that the particulars, including the end of the story, were well known before a frame was ever shot.

The film begins with a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the now infamous Watergate Office Building. Five well-dressed men are caught bugging the office. What appears to be a perplexing but hardly headline-grabbing story is assigned to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), one of the least experienced and least important journalists on staff. But when Woodward begins to sense that the story is far larger than it at first appears, he and fellow reporter Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) doggedly pursue their leads to an end no one could have ever imagined.

What the reporters discover is that the attempted bugging of the Democratic headquarters is only the tip of the iceberg. They uncover a plot on the part of the Republican Committee to Re-elect the President to illegally funnel millions of dollars in campaign funds to bedevil the Democratic Party. The corruption is pervasive. The cover-up involves the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Department. Worst still, as they dig, they discover that this nefarious plot goes straight to the office of the President of the United States itself.

In the end, the fragmented evidence they uncover and piece together is responsible for turning President Nixon out of office, and in doing so, the two reporters become folk heroes to a generation of aspiring journalists.

To read the full review, click here.


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