What makes ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN a classic is threefold: performances, intrigue, and timing. Regarding performances, Robert Redford delivers one of the three best of his career. Alongside BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and THE STING, ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN is the best that weíve ever seen from Redford. Heís charming, serious, intense, and delivers one of the most natural representations of a journalist caught on film. What makes this performance even more astounding is that he never planned on playing the role because he was only interested in producing this movie.
Despite that I am typically not a Dustin Hoffman fan, I make an exception for this movie. His manic style fits perfect in the film because it acts in perfect juxtaposition to Redfordís calm and cool Woodward. Hoffman gives much needed comic relief as well as a ballsy crowd-pleasing attitude. Hoffman is a wonderful yang to Redfordís ying.
The other performances worth applauding are those of Hal Holbrook and Jason Robards. Holbrook doesnít have a lot of flash to give but just by lurking in the shadows as Deep Throat adds mystery and intrigue. Meanwhile, Robards portrayal of Ben Bradlee brings a mix of seniority and integrity. He plays a phenomenal devilís advocate that ensures the journalistic integrity of this story. These two top notch actors challenge Redford and Hoffman on multiple occasions and make for great foils when the actual villains are left out of the story.
In regards to intrigue, ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN is filled to the brim with it. As these two sleuths attempt to deduce what theyíre onto, the spectre of arrest always looms in the background. Especially for those students of history who donít know all of the details of Watergate, ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN spins a web similar to that of INCEPTION. The rapid-fire delivery of names makes following the storyline a puzzle that might take several viewings (or a good bit of research) necessary.
Finally, the timing of this film is impeccable. Just two years after Nixon resigned, all of the characters here were fresh in the public eye. Redford and company struck while the iron was still hot and delivered a movie emblematic of itís time. This happens maybe once or twice during a decade, and ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN is my candidate for the 1970s.