For three years after being forced from office, Nixon remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his...
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For three years after being forced from office, Nixon remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans. Likewise, Frost's team harbored doubts about their boss' ability to hold his own. But as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits resulted. Would Nixon evade questions of his role in one of the nation's greatest disgraces? Or would Frost confound critics and bravely demand accountability from the man who'd built a career out of stonewalling? Over the course of their encounter, each man would reveal his own insecurities, ego and reserves of dignity--ultimately setting aside posturing in a stunning display of unvarnished truth. "Frost/Nixon" not only re-creates the on-air interview, but the weeks of around-the-world, behind-the-scenes maneuvering between the two men and their camps as negotiations were struck, deals were made and secrets revealed--all leading to the moment when they would sit facing one another in the court of public opinion.
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Frost/Nixon is brilliant, funny, complicated and fascinating. Who knew Ron Howard could make a compelling movie out of a 30 year-old TV interview?
In the summer of 1977, disgraced former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) sat down with British TV talk show host and interviewer David Frost (Michael Sheen) for a series of interviews that Nixon hoped would resuscitate his Watergate-tarnished image, and Frost hoped would lift his own career to another level. While it made for good TV at the time, it certainly didn't seem likely fodder for a hit Broadway play and now a major motion picture. Peter Morgan (The Queen) wrote the play and adapted it for the screen, turning it into a riveting cat-and-mouse game between these two made-for-television adversaries. Director Ron Howard emphasizes the behind the scenes machinations and all the negotiations between both camps. The off-camera material is priceless, based in large part on speculative research. Whatever the final truth of the story, the film gains its real power from it's the telling.
Ron Howard turns to the two original stage stars of Frost/Nixon -- a wise casting decision that almost never happens in Hollywood. It's true everyone, including Warren Beatty, reportedly wanted to play Nixon, but it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Langella in recreating his Tony-winning interpretation of the infamous Tricky Dick. He has all of Nixon's mannerisms, vulnerabilities and caginess down pat. Sheen certainly captures the confident nature of Frost but also his insecurities and the realization that this whole enterprise is one big roll of the dice. And two actors work in perfect concert with one another. Supporting roles are well played, including standouts Kevin Bacon as Nixon's trusted Chief of Staff Jack Brennan and a hilarious Toby Jones aping the inimitable book agent Swifty Lazar. As key Frost aides and researchers, Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell do a nice job, as kind of the Greek chorus to the situation.
On the surface, Ron Howard -- better known for his large scale Hollywood productions like The Da Vinci Code and Apollo 13 -- doesn't seem the right fit for this smaller scale drama, but his approach transfers what could have been a flat Broadway screen into a highly cinematic and stimulating two hours. He captures the rhythms of this chess match perfectly and chooses camera angles that catch the sweat behind the cool facades of his two principals. Special mention should go to the beautiful nuanced work of his cinematographer Salvatore Totino. Howard is such a gifted filmmaker, he makes it all seem effortless, easily coaxing two equally superb performances from Langella and Sheen. Frost/Nixon is a first class achievement.
Hollywood.com rated this film 4 stars.
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