Saturday, April 04, 2015

All the President's Men (1976)

On June 17, 1972, five men broke in to the Watergate Hotel with the intent of bugging the Democratic National Headquarters. By many, including a number of newspapers it was believed to be an unimportant crime. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post believed otherwise and it was their persistence that ended up uncovering one of the biggest political scandals in American history. 

As is fitting in a story about journalists we begin with a blank page. Soon enough though we're treated to a great visual of a typewriter stamping out a date, the keystrokes layered with gunshots and whip-lashes to give the scene some punch, foreshadowing the writing of many articles. From there we are treated to stock footage of President Nixon addressing Congress, the triumph before the fall.

The casting of Redford and Hoffman was a genius move as the two play off against each other well. You really believe their enthusiasm and dedication to following every lead, even when it appears hopeless. Apparently the two learned each others lines so they could talk over and interrupt one another, creating more organic conversations. The addition of Jason Robards also lends an amount of gravitas that helps to anchor the newsroom, lending an authenticity to the reluctance and risk taken by the Washington Post to publish stories on the Watergate scandal.

One detractor is the almost non-existent soundtrack. For the first 30 minutes there's no music whatsoever and after it's used too sparingly. In a political thriller music can be key to inform viewers to mood, character motivations, foreshadowing, etc. Without it, there are noticeable gaps where music would have helped elevate and fill out the scene. As well, there were a long of takes that dragged on and the lack of music left those scenes feeling stale and hollow.

As well the lack of transition scenes was a little jarring for some. With a movie like this, running at a breakneck pace and so packed full of information in the vein of names and numbers, it's important for the viewer to understand where and when they are at all times.  Transitions can help ease this verbal overflow and not leave the viewer confused over people, places and things.

There's a complete lack of tension in the movie until Woodward's meeting with Deep Throat where whistling is heard in the background. Before that point the Watergate scandal and the newspaper articles felt completely separate. Here they come together and the possible danger these men are putting themselves in, becomes palpable. These journalists aren't just uncovering a story; they may be risking their lives.

If you're looking for a good movie about journalists and or a political thriller I would highly recommend this film.

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