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Frost/Nixon

August 30, 2010

Frost/Nixon (2008)
Director: Ron Howard
Actors: Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Sam Rockwell

frost-nixon-2.jpg (320×160)

Synopsis: The epic interview between disgraced ex-US president, Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) and upstart UK media tyro, David Frost (Michael Sheen).

Review: Despite being culpable of manipulating an ‘historic event’ to dubious extremes of dramatic license, this is still perfectly passable popcorn fare. Unsurprisingly given the film’s origin as a highly successful stage play, Frost/Nixon’s prime asset is its story that rips along at a fair old pace, and posits its central scenario as essentially a heavyweight clash between two prime egos from the worlds of politics and the media. On that base level the film succeeds, and keeping the two actors from the play’s theatrical run rather than opting for “bigger names” is a sensible choice as Howard is rewarded by strong and convincing performances – from Frank Langella as Richard Nixon in particular.

If one probes any deeper, the film’s flaws are fairly obvious: while Howard is a consummate storyteller, his directorial style is decidedly average, and one can only imagine what a filmmaker with the politico-panache of a Michael Mann might have done with this material. The characters’ faux interview gambits are also a misstep – not only from the notion that they are needlessly expository, but also quite simply because they are stylistically naff. The central twist regarding Nixon crucially submitting his power to Frost with a late-night drunken phone-call is also quite clunky, although kudos must go to Langella for making his character’s subsequent predictable ‘downfall’ a development with a fair degree of poignancy and gravitas. (March 2009)

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