It helps that the subject matter makes for one hell of a movie, but there's a level of craft brought forth by everyone involved that makes "All the President's Men" one of the honest-to-god great movies of the '70s.
The writing in this movie is just a thing of beauty. Most of the first 30 minutes moves from one conversation to the next, but your attention is held fast by a cast-iron grip. That the filmmakers can make several minutes of Redford making call after call at his desk gripping is awe-inspiring. And the dialogue between the characters (not just lead, but supporting, also) carries an authenticity you don't often see. Men engaging in heated discussion, talking over one another that makes you forget these people are reciting lines; it rings true-to-life and these actors disappear into genuine newsmen.
And while "All the President's Men" makes heroes out of Woodward and Bernstein, it by no means glamorizes their job. It's because of the hours upon hours of work they put in, their dogged determination that the story breaks. Hoffman and Redford have a natural chemistry, and two newspapermen become classic movie characters for it.
This is a powerful movie; riveting, very well-made and for my money, the ultimate political thriller. From Pakula's direction, the all-around incredible performances and William Goldman's brilliant screenplay, it's a shining example of everyone at the top of their game.
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