Patient compendium drawing from 3400 hours of audio tapes, archival footage, declassified documents, et al, weaves a rich texture of understanding, particularly effective in flashbacks from...
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Looks back at Watergate, the original game changer of America politics. How has Watergate changed the Presidency? What effect has the scandal had on our political leaders? And has hope and ... See full summary »
Chronicle of Nixon's last months in the White House. A paranoid power-abuser, but also all too human--a confused, pathetic individual who cannot fully comprehend how, in less than one year, he can lose everything he has worked for in life.
David Ogden Stiers
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Patient compendium drawing from 3400 hours of audio tapes, archival footage, declassified documents, et al, weaves a rich texture of understanding, particularly effective in flashbacks from their current day selves to their Watergate-era roles for such stalwarts as Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward and John Dean. Numerous current day parallels are elegantly understated.Written by
WATERGATE. (2018). Charles Ferguson's extensive Documentary (4 1/2 hours) sets out to detail the history of Watergate from the break-in through Nixon's resignation. With so much to cover, Ferguson hasn't much time to give the viewer much of a background to the events during that (just over) two year period, but there are mentions of Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers and the robbery of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office etc.. A stronger narration (written and narrated by Ferguson himself) would have helped immeasurably here and throughout.
Using extensive footage from TV newscasts, archival footage, and, most importantly, the White House tapes, Ferguson does provide an exhaustive account of the timeline. Fresh interviews with many of the key players including Ellsberg, Pat Buchanan, Dan Rather, John Dean (who becomes a sort of bete noir in Ferguson's eyes) and politicians on both sides of the aisle like Elizabeth Holtzman, John McCain and Lowell Weicker are supplemented with archival ones with many of those intimately involved (although, perhaps surprisingly, not Nixon).
The strongest aspect of the Doc is that Ferguson doesn't filter the story through a single prism as is the case with most Watergate summaries. The most common device is to use Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as the conduit. Ferguson did manage to get both Woodward and Bernstein to discuss their involvement, but they are not presented as THE critical figures, just two of them - and WATERGATE is all the stronger for that because it allows for several other historically important avenues to be explored such as the tangled legal and political paths that lead to Nixon's ultimate political demise.
Where Ferguson falls down though is his handling of the Nixon tapes - which are excepted at length. His method is to play the first sentence of the tapes and then launch into long re-enactments with actors playing Nixon (Douglas Hodge), Dean (Max Dexter), Henry Kissinger (Elliot Levey) etc.. To his credit, Ferguson doesn't alter the text, but, the actors simply aren't up to the task of recreating the nuances of these historical figures, with their well known voices and ticks. Hodge, in particular, wanting as Nixon, evoking none of his cunning, oily calculation. These scenes, which amount to a significant amount of screen time, have all the verisimilitude of a bad cable movie.
This major miscalculation aside, WATERGATE does highlight one aspect of the tale that is often overlooked - how the legal system worked, and more specifically how Republican judges, and, eventually, Politicians put aside their own views for 'the good of the country' (any resemblance to President Trump's travails is quite intentional). In particular, it is lifelong conservative Judge John Sirica who becomes one of the major protagonists here. The final nails to Nixon's coffin are overseen by another Republican - Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski (appointed after Nixon fired Archibald Cox). Again, any inference about the current day Republican party isn't a coincidence.
WATERGATE can't be considered the definitive nor final word on the scandal, but, the re-enactments caveat aside, it is a very informative and timely one.
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