All the President’s Men (1976)

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By Scott Ross

Alan J. Pakula, working from a superb William Goldman screenplay, wrought the best newspaper movie of all in this marvelously detailed portrait of the two Washington Post reporters who first exposed the Nixon Administration’s petty chicanery.

What makes the movie so absorbing is its documentary-like depiction of the sheer, mind-numbing meticulousness with which Woodward and Bernstein (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, respectively) piece the story together. It’s a great tribute to a kind of dogged, perfectionist journalism that seems to have died with the Nixon Presidency itself. The sequence at the Library of Congress, in which the little check-out cards pile up as Gordon Willis’ camera rises up and up and up, emphasizing Woodstein’s essential tininess in the grand scheme of themes, is one of my favorite moments in movies.

All the President’s Men is also a marvel in its singularly brilliant casting; every role, no matter how small, is cast to perfection. Jason Robards’ commanding Ben Bradlee leads the way, but look at this partial list of supporting players: Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Jane Alexander, Ned Beatty, Penny Fuller, John McMartin, Robert Walden, Nicolas Coster, Lindsay Crouse, Polly Holliday, James Karen, Neva Patterson, and (as John Mitchell, the voice on the other end of Woodward’s telephone) John Randolph. With Hal Holbrook in a rather terrifying performance as Deep Throat. The spare David Shire score is just about perfect.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

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