All The President's Men Alan J. Pakula

Thirty years after it was made, this film is anything but a history lesson. In an era when political dirty tricks are de rigueur and wiretapping is somehow defensible, All the President's Men seems more like a fantasy for those who believe that the White House is not above the law. The narrative focuses on the beginnings of the Watergate scandal, when two cub reporters at The Washington Post slowly unveiled a conspiracy that would eventually bring down President Nixon. Because we all know the ending, the script focuses instead on the dogged detective story, told with all the tension and pacing of a great thriller. It helps to know a bit about the context, but as you watch the two reporters chase red herrings and opaque clues, it's more about the overall principle and the thrill of the hunt. The cast is uniformly excellent, but it's the small attention to detail that brings the story alive: the harsh lighting of the newsroom versus the shadowy dark corners where truth can be found; long shots of the reporters in front of massive administrative structures; and the realistic portrayal of investigative journalism. A full-length commentary by actor/producer Robert Redford finds him lamenting the fact that in 2005 more attention was paid to the unveiling of the undercover source known as Deep Throat than to the parallels with the current administration. The second disc boasts a wealth of fascinating supplementary material riches unfortunately underscored with overly dramatic flag-waving music. There are two short docs on the "making of": one from 1976 and a new one, both featuring Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, as well as other key players. There are two other featurettes, one on Deep Throat's coming out party, the other on "Woodstein." Both feature an impressive parade of newsroom veterans castigating the state of investigative journalism in corporate media currently, explaining how a story like Watergate would easily be covered up today. Is anybody other than Seymour Hersh still listening? (Warner)