Even when it was new, All the President’s Men was something of an anomaly. It was a mystery where we already knew the solution: the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Today, we even know the identity of the mysterious informant, “Deep Throat” (played in the film by Hal Holbrook). So what — apart from historical merit — keeps the film interesting today?
President’s Men remains a political hot potato, even vilified in some quarters as left-wing propaganda, despite that it really does no more than report the history of the Watergate investigation. But considering we live in a time when people seem determined to repaint long disgraced communist-witch-hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy as a hero, that’s perhaps not so surprising.
On another level, the film remains trenchant because it reminds us that the conspiracy was more far-reaching than the one simple Watergate break-in and was part of a plan to discredit or disgrace every electable Democratic candidate in order to pit the unelectable George McGovern against Nixon for the presidency.
As a film, it’s brilliantly crafted and constantly entertaining — and now a fascinating time capsule of what reporting was like 30 years ago. More, it’s a different kind of time capsule, since at the time of the story it actually would come as a surprise that Woodward (Robert Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) had placed their lives in danger by investigating the story. That it isn’t a surprise now is hardly comforting. Rated PG.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke
[Rounding out film critic Peter Loewer's film series, entitled "Wag the Dog: Three Political Fables," is All the President's Men on Wednesday, Sept, 14, and Wag the Dog, on Thursday, Sept 15. Both films will be shown at 6 p.m. in Pack Memorial Library's Lord Auditorium.]