January 30, 2009 Frost/Nixon
Studio: Universal Rating: R for some language
Director Ron Howard tackles a big moment in American history with his latest work, "Frost/Nixon."
Following his resignation from the presidency in August of 1974, Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) slipped away to his Pacific coast home to be despised by some and forgotten by others. But a British talk show host named David Frost (Michael Sheen) is determined to sit down with the former president and somehow get the truth behind the Watergate scandal.
"Frost/Nixon" goes behind the scenes to show the struggle to get that interview scheduled, financed and eventually on the air.
To complicate matters both men hope to "win" and reap the rewards of a hard-fought, heavily-publicized battle.
Once Frost dips into his own pocket to pay the former president $200,000 he begins preparing for the interview. Frost employs two top researchers (Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt) to dig into Nixon's record. But the former president is a tough opponent, forcing Frost to raise his game if he's going to get any new or significant information. It all comes down to their final session. After discussing, Vietnam, foreign policy and domestic issues the focus is on the Watergate break-in. Will Frost get an admission of guilt from Nixon or will the former president emerge from the talks with his credibility restored?
"Frost/Nixon" is a very entertaining look at one of the most watched interviews in television history. Sheen gives substance to Frost which does the real man justice. Instead of taking the easy route and lampooning his celebrity, Sheen's Frost is committed to process and goes out on a limb personally and financially to get it done.
As good as he is, Langella is even better. Nominated for a Best Actor Oscar he is mesmerizing as the former president trying to rehabilitate his image and get back into the political game. This Nixon isn't a caricature. I don't know if it's accurate, but it certainly feels real.
Platt and Rockwell are very good as Frost's researchers. Matthew Macfadyen is a steady presence as Frost's producer John Birt and Kevin Bacon (Jack Brennan) gives a strong performance as Nixon's post-resignation Chief of Staff, who is in the president's corner no matter what.
This is a well-paced, insightful film about two heavyweights stepping into the spotlight and verbally sparring until only one is standing. Although there has been some discussion about its historical accuracy, as a movie there should be no argument that is is a compelling work of art.
In addition to Langella's Oscar nod, "Frost/Nixon" is also nominated for Best Director, Best Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
While I don't think it's the top movie of the year it is very, very good. On my rating scale, "Frost/Nixon" earns a Home Run.
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