All the Way movie full length review - Superb telling of a flash point in history from a point of view that has been overlooked
History has not been kind to President Lyndon B. Johnson - inheriting essentially a poisoned chalice of a Presidency from the assassinated John F.
Kennedy and The Bill of Civil Rights that had yet to be passed through congress. The political forces of the south are determined not to see that happen, thus Johnson finds himself in a political quagmire of trying to appease Martin Luther King and do what he knows is right on the one hand, while battling congress on the other.
Let's be clear from the beginning here - 'All The Way' is not just a film about Lyndon B. Jonhson, it is a film about what went on behind the scenes that led to the change in the law in America that led to desegregation and voting rights for all Americans. One of the reasons this film is so good is because it ably does both that and gives us a fly on the wall insight into a complicated man, Johnson and those around him during this period of history. Rarely does a film give us so much on so many levels.
Byran Cranston shows us all why he is one of the best American actors living today. He doesn't give us an impersonation of Johnson, he makes you believe your truly watching the man. No doubt this will be all but forgotten come Oscar time, but his performance is truly extraordinary and makes the film a must watch for this alone. It would have been easy for this film to play Johnson as one dimensional but he is truthfully depicted as not being below a few dirty tricks himself. The back and fourth between the two sides makes for compelling viewing in a story extremely well told.
However it would be remiss of me to not mention the other performances from the supporting cast, all of whom are universally excellent. Anthony Mackie brings his own steadfast performance to Martin Luther King while Stephen Root is the paranoid Hoover. Melissa Leo, an actress we really should see more of, is fantastic as the Presidents suffering wife.
The film covers many key moments of this turbulent part of US History. It's easy to see why actress Aisha Hinds never stops working in her riveting cameo as Fannie Lou Hamer, giving evidence of the despicable brutality meted on her while trying to register to vote. Equally Tod Weeks as the Presidents Chief of Staff is a beautiful seamless performance, that could have easily been lost in the shadow of Cranston, but ably holds your attention whenever he is on screen. Frank Langella is both confidant and adversary in the fatherly Senator Richard Russell, am actor I am always grateful to see.
The performances would be nothing however without a great script and to incorporate a sense of who all these characters were, the key events of the time, including the murder of the three civil rights workers and Johnson's numerous idiosyncrasies is nothing shorting amazing so credit must be given to the writer Robert Schenkkan for taking his play and transforming so well to the screen.
Johnson was a complex man and perhaps not an entirely likable one but this film brings to our attention that while Kennedy may have been the man who started The Bill for Civil Rights and Doctor King may have created the public pressure in which to light the fuse, it was the efforts of Johnson and his staff that finally got it pushed through. In his short tenure in office he also achieved a great many other things and was perhaps a far greater President than has been remembered by history. I am certain Johnson would have been happy with this portrayal of himself.
Highly recommended and easily one of my favorite films so far of 2016 and this coming from a Brit who has a limited interest in American politics.