Study Guide

All the President's Men What's Up With the Ending?

What's Up With the Ending?

Bringing Down the (White) House

All the President's Men is a backwards movie, like if Harry Potter killed Voldemort in The Sorcerer's Stone and spent six more books attending classes at Hogwarts.

What we mean by this, is that the movie's climax takes place at the very beginning. Most movies would end with a big heist, but the Watergate break-in takes place at the start.From there, the movie warms slowly, finally coming to a boil at the end when Deep Throat finally tells Woodward that Haldeman was behind the break-in. If he had told him that from the start, we wouldn't even have had a movie.

The filmmakers knew this and had to Hollywood things up a bit by adding some dramatic scenes at the end. In one scene an hour and forty-eight minutes into the movie, Woodward suddenly breaks into a run as if Jason Voorhees is chasing him with an axe. There isn't anything behind him, but Woodward thinks there is. The movie adds life-or-death tension by having Deep Throat tell Woodward his life is in danger. We never see the danger, but the seeds of paranoia are sewn.

Oddly, the movie ends right as things are really heating up. We get a dramatic tracking shot of Woodward running through the newsroom with breaking news. We see the Nixon administration—through real footage—condemning Woodward and Bernstein's reporting. Woodward lays his career on the line, saying "If we're wrong, we're resigning." And we see Bradlee defend his reporters, which serves as an emotional climax of sorts. Whew, good thing Benny Boy has their backs.

Bradlee also defends the country, stating his political agenda, and therefore the political agenda of the film, as if it weren't apparent by you watching the first two hours. Despite the negative press, Bradlee urges them to soldier on. He gives them this pep talk:

BRADLEE: "Nothing's riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters."

Oh, is that all?

In a brief epilogue, we find out through text what happened to all the real-life people in the movie. Pakula and Redford likely end the movie here because there's no suspense involved. Everyone at the time knew that Nixon (a real-life Death Eater if there ever was one) resigned only two years before the film's release. The scandal was fresh in the public's mind. If they wanted that kind of drama they could tune into their local news.

This movie is about the reporters, and their work is never done.