FILM (1976)

Rewind, film: All the President's Men, directed by Alan J. Pakula

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 5:05pm

All the President's Men

Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards

Director: Alan J. Pakula

After watching All the President's Men, viewers could be forgiven for thinking that it was Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman who exposed the Watergate scandal, rather than Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the real-life reporters they portray.

Redford, then Hollywood's most notable liberal activist, and Hoffman play their roles with commitment and an understatement that allows viewers to forget they are watching two of America's greatest stars. The film, expertly directed by Alan J. Pakula, has a realistic sheen that convinces viewers it's an authentic portrayal of the investigation into Richard Nixon's crimes.

Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman used Bernstein and Woodward's book account to frame the investigation as a mystery thriller. This is no mean feat considering every viewer knows how the story ends.

The story, for those too young to know, documents investigative reporting by two Washington Post journalists, Woodward (Redford) and Bernstein (Hoffman). While working on a local story, they discover a link between the White House and a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

With little support from their more experienced editors, but with help from an inside source called "Deep Throat" and a guilt-ridden bookkeeper, the duo "follow the money", as their source says, right to the top of the Republican Party to the US president.

Pakula worked hard to get the details right. All the President's Men does not skimp on the nitty gritty of the investigation, showing numerous phone calls and episodes of journalistic note-taking. The newsroom environment is realistic, and those playing the sources look genuinely scared by the predicament the reporters are dragging them into.

The film showed journalism in a good light, and impressed on young viewers the importance of having a strong Fourth Estate to act as a watchdog on the government. Enrolment in journalism schools in the US reportedly increased after the film's release.

It may have also had some effect on the presidential election of 1976, in which Democrat Jimmy Carter beat Republican Gerald Ford.

The movie was a hit, and had a long run in theatres, bringing the scandal back into the limelight during the campaign, although the event was still recent enough to be at the forefront of voters' minds.

Richard James Havis