As a lover of historical drama and journalism, I find that All The President's Men strikes a cord on several levels. It shows the inner workings of a newsroom. It shows the process of putting together a news story. It shows the desire to be right; not just first. In today's media, it seems that the goal is to throw out a story and see if it withstands scrutiny. Throw it up on the wall, see if it sticks. All the President's Men shows the importance of checking facts, confirming sources and standing by your story if you think it's accurate, whatever the consequences.
Simply put, this film is about the Watergate investigation by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. Woodward and Bernstein were two unknown reporters at the time of a break in at the Watergate hotel, the Democratic Committee's headquarters. But through following every lead and source, they brought to light a conspiracy within the Nixon administration that would ultimately lead to its downfall.
But while such a subject might make an interesting episode of Dateline, this film takes the investigation one step further. The investigation is a 'who dunnit' involving some of the most powerful men in the country. While burglary and wire tapping might not grab headlines, this movie represents a different time. Government was trusted. 24 hour news did not exist. Print journalism still held tremendous weight. It was a big deal to accuse the President's staff, and eventually the President himself, of participation in federal crimes. Oh how far we've come. Such accusations are now a commonplace on the nightly news.
The fact that this movie came out so soon after the Watergate scandal speaks to how much this controversy had gripped the Nation. The investigation culminated in the only resignation of a sitting President, one of the most compelling moments in our country's history. I have read the book by Woodward and Bernstein of the same name. The film is faithful to their account. The film is a testament to what good journalism should be. For every door that closes, and there are MANY doors that close, there is an open window. The Truth is out there. Perseverance is ultimately rewarded.
We follow Woodward and Bernstein as they piece the story together. We watch as they follow leads, call sources and write down bits of information as haphazardly as we might doodle in a college lecture. It's hard to make drama out of such a mundane process, but All The President's Men pulls it off. The movie does not insult our intelligence. It shows how hard the process is, which makes us appreciate the final product.
There are many historical characters at the center of All the President's Men. However Deep Throat, Woodward's anonymous source, is perhaps the most compelling one because he represents the struggle between bringing the truth to light and the firestorm that will result. He wants to see justice, but doesn't want to be the reason for HIS administration's downfall. As a result, he could tell more, but doesn't. He could draw them a map, but instead gives landmarks. He gives cryptic advice that seems to mean nothing, but gets the ball rolling. He is the wise old sage. The oracle, if you will. Every mystical journey has a beacon to guide its travelers. For Woodward and Bernstein, Deep Throat is theirs.
Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards head an outstanding cast. However, the central figure in this film is not the reporters, their co-workers or their sources. It's the Truth. We applaud the efforts of Woodward and Bernstein, because as a society we want to know the truth and it is the media's job to deliver. We rejoice when the breaking story runs. It is like a child being born. Upon being met with criticism, we stand with Post editor Ben Bradlee as he proclaims "We stand by our boys". Where today a representative from his legal department would tell Bradlee to stuff the story in a drawer, Bradlee stands behind his reporters because their ultimate objective was his since he got into the business. Not just to break the story, but to break the Right Story. All The President's Men is a portrayal of the power of the Truth and the desire to find it.
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