All the President's Men

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The movie version of the Carl Bernstein-Bob Woodward book betokens the promotion of mild-mannered Clark Kent to the hero's role, protector of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. This post-Watergate permutation of the newspaper genre clings to plenty of starry-eyed ideas (Gordon Willis's lighting, for instance, sets up an overstated contrast between the fluorescent spic-and-span world of the Free Press and the dim-lit treacherous world outside); but it is often impeccable on naturalistic details of behavior, speech, and journalistic procedure; and it is blessedly free of post-Watergate gloating (as in Jimmy Breslin's melodramatically titled How the Good Guys Finally Won). The old-news aspect of the story and the conspicuous absence of an after-the-fact point of view give the movie serious shortcomings as journalism and as detective story. Its chief strength is as an adaptation of book into movie, on which score it reveals the fine qualities of discretion, concision, and lucidity. With Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, and Jason Robards; directed by Alan J. Pakula. (1976) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG | 2 hours, 18 minutes
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