Film Review: WATERGATE PART 1 (USA 2019) ****

Watergate Poster
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…See full summary »


Charles Ferguson

Just in time for the upcoming 2020 American elections comes a doc about the dirtiest  election tactics ever committed, which resulted in the resignation of the then President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon.

WATERGATE is directed by Academy Award Winner Charles Ferguson who won the Best Documentary Feature in 2011 for INSIDE JOB, an account of the American financial crisis.

WATERGATE parts 1 and 2 tell the full story of how President Richard Nixon and his White House staff committed the crime and were brought to justice.  New interviews with journalists, senior Nixon administration officials, members of congress, and prosecutors – combined with archival footage and newly sourced information from the Nixon White House tapes – brings a fresh perspective to a well known story.  What is truly amazing are the number of interviewees on film who had participated in Watergate.

WATERGATE parts 1 and 2 together make 260 minutes of documentary.  Part 1 runs 2 hours and 10 minutes.  The doc better be good for people to stay for the second part, not to mention having to sit through 4 hours of WATERGATE information.  Fortunately, the doc is an excellent one, an absorbing one that not only will have audiences glued to their seats but wanting more.  The film is not only about Watergate alone, but more about ex-U.S. President Richard M. Nixon’s dirty and illegal political activities.   If one mouths President Trump as the bad President, one should realize that Trump is an angel compared to Nixon.  Trump is more bark than bite.  Nixon keeps it quiet with the adage running true that still waters run deep.  Nixon is truly the evil one.

Part 1 starts off with Nixon pre-Watergate.  He is setting up devices to ensure he wins the next election.  At present, his main hindrance according to the film is the losing Vietnam War.  It is at the 30 minutes mark, that the doc announces the Watergate burglary.  The film goes systematically into the cover up, the payoffs, the breakdown in the cover-up – all these under the consent and knowledge of President Nixon.  This is what the film clearly indicates, regardless of whatever else.   Part 1 ends like a court room drama, but one that is growing more intense with Nixon not yet but almost revealed as the main conspirator.  Part 1 ends with the word INTERMISSION.  It sets up the stage for Part 2.  The good thing about the length is that director Ferguson gets a chance not to leave out any essential facts about Watergate, even allowing him to insert pre-Watergate issues as he does in Part 1.

One fo the film’s most exciting segments is the story of gay anti-war activist David Mixner who met his gay lover only to find everything a set up.  He never saw his lover again and was threatened for his sexuality at the time in 196 when homosexuality was a crime.

Part 1 certainly incites the audience’s anger for numerous reasons.  The first is how conniving Nixon can be.  President Carter granted Nixon a full pardon, which he clearly did not deserve.  The rest is scary how the American or any government for that matter has the power to do whatever it takes to stay in power or to fool the people.  On the brighter side of things, there are the good and honest people, like the journalists, who fight for the truth to be known.