This 1976 political thriller is based on the book of the same name by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the two reporters who were responsible for uncovering the facts of the Watergate Scandal which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Nominated for eight Academy Awards it won three and is often regarded as one of the best political thrillers of all time.
The movie manages to capture the sense of urgency, frustration and fear that must be present inside a major newspaper office as its staff are working on a sensitive story such as the one depicted here. It portrays journalistic workings in what appears to be an accurate way and follows the story from beginning to, not quite the end, but a satisfactorily conclusion. The central partnership is strong and ebbs and flows from distrust to jealousy to solid teamwork and mutual admiration and respect. The film also gets to the heart of the Watergate Scandal, introducing a lot of characters who would otherwise have been lost in history.
What I liked about the film is that it felt like we were on the journey of discovery with the reporters. Although we have historical hindsight now, if you ignore that, the audience learns about the scandal and surrounding crimes, cover-ups and lies in a slow and steady way, the film taking its time to unravel, much as the story did in real life. My favourite scenes were either set inside The Post’s offices or in one of the two lead’s apartments where they worked together on clues. The collaboration between the two reporters worked well both in real life and on screen and the actors had great chemistry. Both leads were superb in their roles and they were ably supported by a solid cast which included Jason Robards who earned an Oscar for his performance.
At times the film struggled to hold my attention, despite my interest in politics. Whether it was because I already knew the outcome or just wasn’t interested, I couldn’t say but at times my mind drifted. The film isn’t flashy and occasionally has a slight documentary feel to it. Perhaps the straight visual style impeded my enjoyment slightly? The score was very good and the design was excellent while the plot was often, if not always, intriguing. The film still stands out as one of the best movies of 1976 alongside the likes of Network, Taxi Driver and Rocky and for me it’s an interesting political thriller with its heart in the right place. It tells a story which needs to be told but it just didn’t grab me emotionally as did the real events.
- In posters and trailers, Redford was billed first but in the opening credits it was Hoffman who took top billing.
- Frank Willis, the security guard who discovered the Watergate break-in, plays himself.
- During filming, Robert Redford stayed at the Watergate Hotel.