Perhaps no feeling or emotion is stronger in Alan J. Pakula's 'All the President's Men' (1976) than that of "paranoia". A cinematic adaptation of Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein's (Dustin Hoffman) investigation into and eventual exposing of Richard Nixon's connection to the Watergate Scandal, Pakula's film, in addition to being more accurate to its real-life sources than many other "true" stories, manages to convey a palpable sense of suspicion and suspense that is on par with that of some of Hollywood's greatest suspense films.
Boasting a screenplay written by William Goldman (author/screenwriter of 'The Princess Bride' 1987, among others), Pakula's film is a tensely paced political thriller that manages to keep its audience on the edge of their seats despite the fact that anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of American politics already knows how the film is going to end.
A great deal of Pakula's success lies in his principal actors, Redford and Hoffman, who were easily at their prime when Pakula's film was shot. The chemistry shared between Redford and Hoffman, as well as the juxtaposition of their personalities, creates an strong and believable story, with Redford's portrayal of the level-headed albeit slightly naive Woodward contrasting wonderfully with Hoffman's addled, cynical and overstressed Bernstein. Nary a scene exists wherein the two actors don't work perfectly together, their back-and-forth a mixture of the witty and the intense as we witness the ridiculous amount of work and effort that journalists had to go through before the advent of email and the internet in order to research or confirm their stories.
As pivotal as Redford/Hoffman are to the film's success, however, Pakula and Goldman's combined talents are equally important to the success of 'All the President's Men'. With Goldman's well-paced script and believable dialogue, Pakula manages to shoot and edit a film that translates Goldman's words and ideas onto the screen with remarkable intensity, and creates as tightly-edited, high-paced film that works just as a well as a Hitchockian thriller as it does as a "true story" film.
However, as well-made as Pakula's film is, 'All the President's Men' is not without at least some faults. The most obvious of these is that Pakula's film, made only two years after Nixon's resignation, does not contain any exposition or background information on the politicians featured heavily in the film, owning to the fact that all of the people and names thrown about the film were still quite fresh in the public's mind at the time (and thus, needed no exposition). However, since a little over three decades have since passed since the Watergate Scandal, contemporary viewers might have a more difficult time following along with Pakula's tale, unless they're already informed and knowledgeable of the people connected to the crime, as names and persons are mentioned constantly with little to no context being given as to their roles or positions in the government, or their connection to Nixon.
But perhaps the most noticeable flaw of Pakula's film lays in its ending, which is rather anti-climatic giving the brooding and growing atmosphere of paranoia that Pakula crafted so well during the majority of the film. Although the symbolism in the film's last scene -- Woodward and Bernstein typing up their damning report to the sound of a twenty-one gun salute -- is rich and interesting in and of itself, it seems rather like a let-down after the intensity of Woodward's last meeting with the mysterious Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) in the shadow-laden garage, where the mysterious informant tells Woodward ominously that "their lives are in danger".
But despite these faults, Alan J. Pakula's film remains a strong and entertaining one that accurately captures and conveys the dread, distrust and disillusion that paraded through the country following the historic Watergate Scandal. As a historical film and as a political thriller, few movies can compare to 'All the President's Men', whose themes and motifs are as relevant today as they are entertaining and engaging.
Find the nearest Blockbuster (assuming they still exist) near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.