Screengrab: When the pen is mightier than skullduggery

Richard Lutz points the finger at the TV film you can’t miss this week.

Hollywood mega star Robert  Redford bowed out with his final film last week, a slow clunker called  The Old Man and The Gun. It could have also been called The Old Man and A Turkey. See the article here

But this week sees Redford at his best. All the President’s Men (Thursday, 22.45, TCM) is a 1976 beaut that pairs him with Dustin Hoffman as the two reporters who uncovered the nefarious White House plot to criminally break into the Democratic Party HQ in the Watergate building to steal data.

The plotting is tight and right. The actors are superb as angsty tireless hacks Woodward and Bernstein. Jason Robarts is knarled, short tempered and a dab hand on the tiller as their editor. Redford and Hoffman wanted a sense of urgency to this infamous story of stories so they memorised all the lines (not just their own) so they could cut across the other to create a hectic pace. To get that gritty feel, they moved into the Washington Post newsroom for months to learn the daily rote and grind of reporting. 

An initial script was written by Carl Bernstein along with Nora Ephron (later his wife). They didn’t understand the craft and all but one line of dialogue was chucked out by final writer William Goldman. It was he that created the axiom: Follow the money, as stated by the Deepthroat source. It never appeared in the original book by Woodward and Bernstein but it’s now part of investigative journalism argot.

The final cut is a great movie. Director Alan Pakula, with classy credits such as Klute, Sophie’s Choice and The Parallax View, delivers a politico-thriller where we know who the bad guy is but still are bug eyed as the scandal is uncovered. You can taste the nervy energy, you can smell the paranoia.

Maybe Mr Trump should watch this film that proves the pen is mightier than the lowlife skulduggery that poisons the White House now. And hopefully this film along with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All Is Lost and Jeremiah Johnson will stand out as a trio of movies that 82 year Redford will be, and should be, truly remembered for.