To be completely honest, coming into this film, I knew extremely little about the Watergate scandal, beyond knowing that Forrest Gump was responsible for the burglaries being discovered, because the flashlights were "keeping him awake." On June 17 1972, a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., by members of the Richard Nixon administration, resulted in a string of cover-ups and, ultimately, in Nixon's 1974 resignation. The two Washington Post journalists credited with uncovering the Watergate scandal are Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, later known collectively as "Woodstein." Their exploits are detailed in their 1974 non-fiction book, 'All The President's Men,' from which this film of the same name was adapted.
The scandal itself arose from humble beginnings. When a low-key court hearing for the five Watergate burglars piques the interest of Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), he and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) are assigned to the story. At the time, it is deemed insignificant enough to involve these two secondary journalists, but Woodward and Bernstein soon discover that the scandal runs higher than they could ever have anticipated.
Redford and Hoffman are great in their respective roles, seamlessly stepping into the shoes of two reporters and never for a moment slipping up. Strong supporting roles also come from Jack Warden, Martin Balsam and Jason Robards as editors of the Washington Post, and they act their respective roles convincingly, as though they've been in the newspaper business their whole lives. Hal Holbrook is suitably mysterious as Deep Throat, Woodward's anonymous inside source, who arranges meetings in the eerie shadows of a deserted parking garage. Deep Throat's true identity was kept a secret until May 31 2005, when William Mark Felt, Sr stepped forward and publicly revealed the truth.
It would, no doubt, have been tempting for the filmmakers to exaggerate or overdramatise the two reporters' exploits, perhaps by "fleshing out" their characters by including their own troubling personal lives, or by throwing in a random car chase to get the adrenaline pumping. However, director Alan J. Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman have remained relatively loyal to the source material, and manage somehow keep a taut storytelling pace, despite the film consisting largely of inquiring phone calls and interviews with reluctant sources.
This is a stunning political thriller, the greatest triumph arising from the film's ability to keep the audience's attention, despite everybody already knowing how the story is going to end. Well, except for me
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