All the President’s Men

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(1976) ★★★★★

Sky Movies Select: Tuesday 9 June, 1.30pm

Director Alan J. Pakula followed the excellent Klute and the stunning conspiracy thriller The Parallax View with his masterpiece. Based on the book by Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, it’s the kind of true story you couldn’t make up: the White House Watergate scandal. Thanks to Pakula’s painstaking attention to detail and skill at building tension, the result is a taut detective thriller diminished not a jot by the fact that you know the ending. It’s also a useful corrective to the hypocritical ‘elder statesman’ guff spouted at the time of Richard Nixon’s death. He was the president who covered up the tawdry facts of the Watergate Hotel break-in. America, to its credit, hung impeachment over his head. He huffed and puffed and dragged his feet but eventually resigned in disgrace. Only the likes of Sepp Blatter would sympathise. The film itself is immaculate – Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein make tenacity attractive – and it’s probably the last time journalists were movie heroes in the liberal tradition of Hollywood’s crusading years. As the Thatcher-Reagan era dawned, the media were treated with increasing disrespect and suspicion by the movies. William Goldman’s screenplay won one of the film’s four Oscars – but the big prize went to Rocky, a picture also deemed superior to Network and Taxi Driver. Coincidentally, a best screenplay Oscar also went to The Candidate (which follows at 3.55pm), the title role taken by Robert Redford, an idealistic Californian lawyer persuaded to run for the US Senate. It was the first script by Jeremy Larner, author of the cult 60s novel Drive, He Said (filmed by Jack Nicholson in the early 70s). Larner published no further novels and his subsequent scripts remained undeveloped.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 132min