All the President’s Men

Movie Information

Genre: Political Newspaper Thriller
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook
Rated: PG

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.]

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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