Frost/Nixon (2008) R 122min
January 25th, 2009 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 8,482 Views
A great movie by Oscar-winning director and producer Ron Howard (Changeling (2008), The Da Vinci Code (2006), Cindirella Man (2005), A Beautiful Mind (2001), How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)) starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell and Kevin Bacon based on the play by Peter Morgan.
The plot: A British game-show host David Frost (Michael Sheen), who was never successful enough to prevent his game show from being cancelled in UK and risking his show in Australia being cancelled, got an opportunity of a lifetime to interview president Nixon (Frank Langella) two years after he resigned as the result of 1971 Watergate scandal. Unable to secure financial support from sponsors and TV networks, Frost financed the interview himself, while having to pay Nixon $600,000 for the interview – an unprecedented amount of money at that time. At the same time Richard Nixon, willing to clear his name and get back in politics, grants the interview with the British game-show host. But Frost’s producers Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and John Birt (Mathew Mcfadyen), under influence of their researcher, journalist and anti-war activist James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell) convince him to go beyond a simple interview – they attempt “to give Richard Nixon the trial he never had” thanks to Ford’s presidential pardon.
The good: There isn’t much action in the movie – all it is is pieces of interview with Nixon and commentary about David Frost and his interview by his girlfriend and his crew. So why is this movie so damn interesting? For me, the primary reason is that the movie is based on real events and on real people. Secondly, this is a great story about very interesting controversial person in the time of turmoil. The Watergate scandal, the Vietnam war – all that happened under Nixon’s presidency. Not only he didn’t end the war, he expanded it beyond Vietnam to Combodia, for example. As James Reston Jr. said in the movie, “this president” was ready to “illiminate entire peoples” to win the war, which only “radicalized the rigion and made it impossible to win the war”. Reminds you of anything or anyone?
And the third reason to lke this movie, besides the great acting – is the unelievable mind game between the president, his loyal advisor Jack Brennan (played by Kevin Bacon) and David Frost and his team.
Did I mention great acting? I liked Michael Sheen already for wonderfully playing Tonny Blair in “The Queen“. He gives a memorabe performance here as well. Here he plays a guy who bets his entire life’s savings, his name and his career to get an interview. It’s interesting though that his character does not believe that Nixon should apologize for his act. Yes, the Watergate was embarassing, the Vietnam war is now over. For David Frost it was pretty much a business risk – to say goodbye to his career or get an interview that may give his carrer a boost. If it wasn’t for James Reston Jr. who came with conviction and pressure to “give Richarn Nixon a trial he never had” – for violating trust of American people, for killing millions of people as the result of Vietnam War, for overstepping his authourity and covering it up - it would be just another forgetable interview. As the result, the first several days of taping really do him a disservice – Nixon again looks presidential and appears to win the challenge. It’s the last day of taping when Nixon is scheduled to talk about Watergate when the fortunes change.
Frang Langella was awesome as Nixon. Although he doesn’t look much like the late president, I think he got the escence of Nixon’s character – a tall, but croocked man, very dark and gloomy man, who is pretty strong in his convictions and a great debater – this is the man who won the elections, “waged war on three fronts” and managed to survive Watergate scandal – a very strong man. He still feels his power – he believes he was forced into retirement despite his wanting to do the greater good for the country – the way he saw it. It seems he is blinded by his own personality and his own convictions. It was at the last day of interview with Frost that he finally saw what he had done! He even knew he did wrong, but he was convincing himself that he had done it in the best interest of the country – even when he broke the law: “I’m saying that when the president does it – it’s not illegal!”. Such a complex character!..
Oliver Platt was amazing. He was cast in a short supporting role of Bob Zelnick, the Washington journalist and lawyer. In preparations and rehersals for the iterviews, Zelnick would play the role of Nixon, often mimicking his speech patterns and manerism (same as in the movie). Oliver Platt, as a matter of fact, was so good at it, I began to wonder if he was not a better candidate to play Nixon.
Cinematography by Salvatore Totino (The Da Vinci Code, Cinderella Man) and music by Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Da Vinci Code, Batman Begins, Pearl Harbor and more) also deserve the praise.
The bad: Though Frank Langella played Nixon superbly, I wonder if they could find a better look-alike actor. Not a big deal though – if you are 20 years old why do you care what Nixon looked like? Why is this movie rated “R”? Just because they said “F” word a few times? It’s a fantastic movie that everyone who can read and think for themselves should see.
What to read: James Reston Jr.: The Conviction of Richard Nixon: The Untold Story of the Frost/Nixon Interviews, 2007
The summary: A great historical and biographical movie, with the Frost/Nixon interview in the center of the plot – a brillian mind game that lead to Nixon’s public admission of crimes and apology.
The cast: Richard Nixon – Frank Langella | David Frost – Michael Sheen | James Reston Jr. – Sam Rockwell | Jack Brennan – Kevin Bacon | John Birt – Matthew Macfadyen | Bob Zelnick – Oliver Platt | Caroline Cushing – Rebecca Hall | Swifty Lazar – Toby Jones | Frank Gannon – Andy Milder | Diane Sawyer – Kate Jennings Grant | Pan Nixon – Patty McCormack
The crew: Director – Ron Howard | Screenplay – Peter Morgan | Producer – Tim Bevan, William M. Connor, Eric Fellner, Brian Grazer, Todd Hallowell, Ron Howard, Kathleen McGill, Peter Morgan, Louisa Velis | Original Music – Hans Zimmer | Cinematography – Salvatore Totino
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