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Film Critique of All the President's Men

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I. Summary

Opening in theaters around the United States in April of 1976, All the President's

Men paints quite an accurate account of American journalism yet at the same time is a suspenseful adventure that manages to entertain and inform its viewers. Vincent Canby, a reviewer for the New York Times called the movie, "an unequivocal smash-hit--the thinking man's Jaws." Because the film is written from the perspective of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the movie works as a blockbuster, and not just a documentary. The script was written in such a way that the historical information (dates, names, and events) is recorded, but does not confuse and interfere with the message the director is trying to portray.

The film opens with actual footage of Nixon's helicopter landing and then him addressing Congress. In the next clip, it is the evening of June 17, 1972 and we see flashlights and hear radio conversations of the burglars at the Watergate, which leads into the next morning and Woodward's assignment of a minor break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters. A few minutes later, Woodward is surprised to find that top defense lawyers are ready to defend the burglars, yet the burglars have not been able to make any phone calls and the list of the accused includes top Republican fund raisers. Woodward begins to sense that this is going to be quite the story on this first day of uncovering the details of the occurrence.

The story grows and Bernstein and Woodward discover that the trail is much greater than they ever thought. The accused happen to have the addresses and phone numbers of top CIA and White House authorities in their address books, yet everyone they speak with is unwilling to talk. Ben Bradlee, Editor-in-Chief of the Post is ready to go with the story, but Woodward and Bernstein can't get two corroborating sources. Throughout the film, they receive guidance and leads from "Deep Throat," a high level insider, who provides insight on where they should look next for information. Because "Deep Throat" remains anonymous, he does not count as a source, and they can't run the story that will eventually bring down an Administration just yet.

They begin to trace money originating from the Committee to Re-Elect the President and uncover a few important facts. The White House and the Republican Party begin to make serious attacks on The Washington Post, but the editors run the story anyways. The ending is history. Two unknown and inexperienced reporters uncover one of the largest scandals of the decade because of their hunger for more details and the ambition with which they attacked the story.

II. Critical Analysis

a. What is the basic plot of the film?

i. See above paragraph

b. How are the media and journalists portrayed?

i. Both journalists are relatively inexperienced, but both are extremely hungry to uncover the details of the story. Throughout the film they are portrayed as very ambitious, but new reporters. They are under constant pressure to double and triple check their sources. Most of the editors at the Post were opposed to Woodward and Bernstein covering such a great story and wanted to pass it off to more experienced reporters, but Editor Ben Bradlee gave them a chance. He had confidence in their perseverance and dedication to uncover the truth. In many scenes, Woodward and Bernstein are extremely frustrated and feel as though they are getting nowhere because no one will talk to them. They are aggravated and feel it is because these sources of information and witnesses have been threatened by a higher force. During a few of the interviews they appear to be quite inexperienced when asking questions that are either irrelevant or lead the witness away from revealing what they know.

c. Are these portrayals realistic and/or plausible - if not, why not?

i. These portrayals are very realistic because they are based upon actual events. The inclusion of the newsreel footage (Pres. Nixon's helicopter landing, Pres. Nixon addressing the House of Representatives, and Representative General Ford's nomination speech for Nixon's Re-Election campaign at the RNC) is an asset in depicting the historical events in such a vivid manner that the movie seems more like a documentary than a motion picture. Also, the movie rarely addresses the personal lives of Woodward and Bernstein and when it does, the intent is to portray the reality of the amount this story was consuming their lives. Their apartments are bare except for Chinese food containers and they slept on mattresses on the floor. Their careers and making their name known by uncovering the scandals and unethical practices of the Republican Party and the White House.

d. Does the film or documentary reflect any particular bias, if so, in what way?

i. I didn't detect any particular biases from the film makers. The film was based on the book written by Woodward and Bernstein and therefore the movie was written from their perspectives.

e. How did the film or documentary expand your knowledge or deepen your understanding of the American political system?

i. Aside from learning about the actual historical events regarding the Watergate scandal, one could learn quite a bit about how the government functions. The massive amount of bureaucracy and the extensive network of individuals that support the executive that is displayed in the movie are mind-boggling. The film focused on the periphery, not on the corruption at the top levels. On Deep Throat's advice, Woodward and Bernstein work



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