1 Year, 100 Movies: #77 All the President’s Men (1976)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

I love love love love this movie. Always have. Forever will. Reason #1: Robert Redford. Reason #2: It’s an intelligent and entertaining look at one of our nations most scandalous  moments in presidential history. Reason #3: Robert Redford. 😉

All the President’s Men is a fantastic film about the two journalists from the Washington Post that investigated the Watergate scandal- Woodward (Robert Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman). The movie starts out with the actual scandal- and the security guard who finds the door kept unlocked with tape was played by- get this- the actual security guard, Frank Wills! He called the police and five burglars were arrested in the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex. The movie is based upon the tactics the unlikely pair of journalists use to investigate the story until they uncover the truth.

Bob Woodward, a new reporter for the Washington Post is assigned to the story. He learns that the burglars had bugging equipment and their own “country club” attorney- interesting for everyday burglars. He also discovers that one of the burglars had recently left the CIA and the others have CIA ties. He soon links them to E. Howard Hunt, a former employee of the CIA and to President Richard Nixon’s Special counsel Charles Colson. At this point Carl Bernstein is assigned to cover the story with Woodward. They are reluctant to work with one another, but find quickly that they work well together.

Having no other leads at this point Woodward contacts “Deep Throat” a senior government official that he has used in the past as an anonymous source. Deep Throat won’t give him straightforward information, but does tell him to ‘follow the money’. The pair connect the burglars to thousands of dollars in diverted campaign contributions to Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President. Through that campaign’s former treasurer Hugh W. Sloan Jr. Woodward and Bernstein connect a slush fund of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and former Nixon Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who was then the head of the Committee to Re-elect the President. Executive editor of the Washington Post Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards) forces the pair to obtain other sources to confirm the Halderman connection. After the White House issues a non-denial denial of the story Bradlee continues to support them.

Deep Throat finally reveals to Woodward that the break in was masterminded by Halderman, and that the cover up was not to hide the burglary, but to hide covert operations involving ‘the entire U.S. intelligence community’ and warns Woodward that his life as well as Bernstein’s are in danger. Their editor urges them to continue despite the risk- and despite the fact that Nixon had just been re-elected. In the dramatic final scene Woodward and Bernstein type out the full story as the TV in their office shows Nixon taking the Oath of Office for his second term as president. A montage of the Watergate-related headlines from the following years is shown at the finish, ending with Nixon’s resignation and the inauguration of Vice President Gerald Ford.

The film is based off a book that was written about the Watergate scandal and is a very watchable film that holds your attention. It’s a study of a moment in history and the process of journalism. It could have been sensationalized for viewers, but Redford, who purchased the rights to the book – along with the screenwriter William Goldman and the director, Alan Pakula- decided to make the film real. They make the pavement covering, interview giving, library card shuffling and phone call making – potentially boring every day journalism – seem as intriguing as a bomb being disengaged two seconds before it goes off. Although a more accurate metaphor for this film would be various wires seen individually being put into place creating a ticking time bomb that finally explodes at the end. The film feels more dangerous for its subtlety.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

5star

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