All the President’s Men (1976)

by | Feb 26, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

All the President’s Men (1976)

Starring: Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman
Studio:  Warner Brothers
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
Extras: Telling the Truth about Lies: The Making of All the President’s Men; Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire; Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat; Commentary by Robert Redford;  Pressure and the Press: The Making of All the President’s Men (Vintage Featurette); Vintage Jason Robards Interview by Dinah Shore; Alan J. Pakula Thrillers Trailer Gallery Length: 2 hours 18 minutes
Rating: ****

Devoting an extensive amount of preparation to the creation of real-life based films can accentuate the event itself, leading to a first-rate viewing experience. 

Actor and producer Robert Redford, screenwriter William Goldman, and director Alan J. Pakula put this degree of detail into their classic American political thriller All the President’s Men, and now 30 years later, film fans have an opportunity to savor the artistic brilliance these men brought to the movie.  Creators of the film meticulously re-created The Washington Post newsroom,  Redford (and co-star Dustin Hoffman) studied their real-life characters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with razor-sharp intensity, and Goldman’s script stayed true to the actual events, mostly.

Knowing the American public would not be surprised to discover that Nixon resigned in disgrace, producer Redford and writer Goldman instead emphasized Woodward and Bernstein’s journey as reporters on the investigative trail.  In fact, it was  Redford’s suggestion to both reporters to include themselves as character’s in their book, rather than solely focusing on the corruption from Nixon and his subordinates.

Viewers see the diligent, unrelenting Woodward (Redford) and the clever fox Bernstein (Hoffman) aggressively pursuing the story against the pressure to back down.  Other than Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee (superbly played here by Jason Robards), few journalists, including members of the Post staff, believed the story merited a long term investigation.  Yet, the two reporters, with the help of a key and now-revealed famous inside source, trusted their hunches and continued their pursuit of the story. 

All the President’s Men succeeds, in large part, because of superior acting from the primary players. Noteworthy scenes include Redford questioning a suspicious looking lawyer at an arraignment of the burglars and later on the phone pressing key participants in the cover up.  The dramatic tension builds and this talented (and then young) actor brings viewers right into the scene of corrupt political figures losing their composure.

Hoffman’s improvised performance as Bernstein, working with and sometimes against his colleague Woodward, provides the unique dramatic element to this solid film.  The two-time Oscar winning actor, perhaps deserving of a nomination in this role as well, finagles his way into interviews, gentling coaxing his subjects to reveal the information he desperately seeks.  As Hoffman chain smokes and chatters, he pries revealing information out of his subjects, most notably Jane Alexander’s character.  Hoffman entertains the audience during this scene as he spends hours drinking coffee, and alternating pleasant exchanges with disguised questions in order to extract just the right amount of info (in this case nods of her head) from Alexander to confirm his story. [Reporters later referred to the actual colleagues as “Woodstein.”…Ed.]

Jason Robard’s best supporting Oscar performance as Executive Editor Ben Bradlee is another high point.  Robards not only resembles Bradlee physically, he adopts his persona as well.  Early in the film, when the two young reporters appear to be making progress with their investigation; Robards steps in and shoots a cold stare at the overconfident Bernstein.  Here, the older actor needs no lines; his presence alone is enough to silence a very vocal upstart reporter.

Though All the President’s Men is long and revolves around the minutia of investigative reporting, it is the focus on Woodward and Bernstein’s determination to get the story which drives the film.  Director Alan J. Pakula’s casting choices compliment the featured duo, while screenwriter Goldman crafts a fluid, steadily moving script.

Videophiles will exult in the many extra features.  In two Making Of documentaries – one current and other from the 70s – Redford, Hoffman, and others offer precise details of how the film came together.   Another short, Lighting the Fire: Woodward and Bernstein, examines the change these two men made in American journalism, which does not appear to have carried over to today, unfortunately. Both sound and picture quality translate well on this entertaining and educational dual DVD disc set.

—  Jim Fasulo

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