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Frost/Nixon (2008)

400 million people were waiting for the truth.

Directed by:

Ron HowardRon Howard

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 122 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: United Kingdom, United States

It looked like it might be history lesson—interesting in a stodgy, bookish way, but not exactly big screen fodder. Why make a film about a television interview that took place over thirty years ago—a film, by the way, based on a STAGE PLAY that was based on the original series of 1977 interviews? Why not just find the originals at a local library or something if you’re that interested? Well, I may actually do that now, having seen this gripping piece of biographical drama, but skipping the movie would’ve been a shame.

In 1977, Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) agreed to a series of interviews with talk-show host David Frost (Michael Sheen). See, Tricky Dick, advised that Frost was a soft journalist who would lob fluffy, happy questions his way, thought he’d finally get a chance to come off looking good in the public eye after the Watergate disgrace—not to mention he was promised a fee of $600,000. Frost, on the other hand, had something to prove to all the Mike Wallaces out there—he was a real journalist, and he wasn’t going to let Nixon off the hook. What transpires is a duel, of sorts, between two vastly different men, both with something to prove, at a pivotal point in the history of our government and our country.

Again, there’s something vaguely yawn-worthy when one hears the premise of this film. Two men in an interview—no matter who the men or how important the interview—doesn’t exactly inspire most folks to want to rush down to the Cineplex. And sometimes, it’s hard to explain, but I think sometimes even when critics admit to liking Ron Howard’s work as a director, it’s with a slightly wrinkled nose, as if he’s somehow not “cool.” Throw that all out. First off, this is more than a movie about an interview—it’s almost a political thriller. Even knowing it’s based on real people and events, there’s a suspense that permeates every scene. For a movie based on some big personalities, Howard is able to bring out the subtleties in his actors. Langella doesn’t necessarily look or sound like Nixon, but he embodies the character of Nixon, which is so much better than if he’d tried to do a shaky-jowled impersonation, and Sheen conveys confidence and abject terror as Frost. The supporters are also superb, especially Kevin Bacon as Nixon’s ever-loyal Jack Brennan. From costumes to hair to makeup, the whole film feels REAL, almost like a documentary, but with better shots. My only complaint is with a pivotal phone call between Nixon and Frost; I don’t mind that it’s fictitious, and it’s a great acting moment for Langella, but as a plot point—and in the dialogue itself—it feels stuck in and contrived, like a monologue created for the sole reason of exposition. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it did detract from the authenticity that is otherwise such a strong point.

It's Got: Outstanding direction and performances, a riveting story, a glimpse into history.

It Needs: To rethink the phone call.

Alternatives:

All the President's Men, Nixon, The Insider

Summary

A film that once again shows that history will always repeat itself, this character-driven true story brings authenticity and suspense to a page of American history.

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