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Frost/Nixon (2008)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Genres:
Docudrama, Drama, Political Drama
Director:
Ron Howard Ron Howard
Starring:
Frank Langella Frank Langella
Michael Sheen Michael Sheen
Sam Rockwell Sam Rockwell
Kevin Bacon Kevin Bacon
Matthew Macfadyen Matthew Macfadyen

7.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 08, 2009
Two of the biggest plays to hit Broadway stages in recent years were turned into feature films in 2008. "Doubt" was the first and it was my favorite film of the year. The other was "Frost/Nixon", directed by the underestimated Ron Howard and starring the two men who made the play such a success, Frank Langella and Michael Sheen. The film has all the pedigree you could hope for in a motion picture: directed by Ron Howard, written by Peter Morgan who penned "The Queen" and featuring an incredible ensemble cast that would leave any casting director envious. There has also been a lot of buzz about this film being one of the front-runners at the Academy Awards this year. I could see that. The film is simply fantastic. As a fan of the play, I was wondering how Howard was going to translate that to screen, but he's done a commanding job of making us feel every bit of drama and every bit of comedy that the play produced so brilliantly. The result is a film that paints two intricate portraits of two very different men who, oddly enough, seem to have quite a bit in common. "Frost/Nixon" is one of the best films of 2008.

The film begins not very long after President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) resigns the Presidency of the United States. He has just been pardoned by Gerald Ford and the American people are angry. A continent away, David Frost (Michael Sheen) is interviewing the Bee-Gees one day and then deciding he wants to be the first reporter to get an exclusive interview with Nixon. What happens next is astonishing. Using his own money, Frost finances the interview with Nixon, a man who seems determined to get these dark and terrible secrets off his chest and on the record. Frost hires a crack team of investigators to assist, including James Reston (Sam Rockwell) and Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt), who work to criminalize Nixon once and for all. Once the tapes start rolling, nothing goes as planned and Frost must come to the realization that he might not have given the former President enough credit. What we see is Richard Nixon, a brilliant and crafty veteran of politics who makes questions his own and never gives the answers the other side wants. In Nixon's corner, watching out for his safety, is Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon), his friend and associate. By the end, as you already known, Nixon confesses some wrong-doing in the Watergate ordeal, changing his perception forever and giving Frost the career boost he needed. No spoilers - it's all on public record.

What a fine crafted film this is. The film cuts back from live action scenes to documentary-style interviews with the main characters in the film, which is exactly what they do in the stage play. I just assumed Howard would try and find some way around this but instead he embraced it and it helps the film tremendously. We get the sense that we're watching a re-cap of some epic battle between two icons. The cinematography by Salvatore Totino might be easy to dismiss, but he does some nice things here, especially in the way he photographs Nixon, especially in the shadows. Nixon is built up to be this giant of a man - this titan of politics. The music from Hans Zimmer is some of the best of the year and the art direction and production design fantastic. But the real credit here goes to Ron Howard who continues to show that he has far more up his sleeve that some of his lesser fare would indicate. "Frost/Nixon" is the best film he's done since "Apollo 13" and it's a different kind of film for him, which was nice. Luckily, for Howard, he had a terrific play from Peter Morgan that Morgan was able to translate effortlessly to the screen. Credit both Howard and Morgan for this achievement.

But, in regards to this film, there is one man receiving more attention than anyone else and that man is Frank Langella as Richard Nixon. He took home the Tony Award for this role on Broadway and there is heavy talk of his taking home the Oscar as well. Langella is electric here in one of his best roles to date. Langella is not so much doing a Nixon imitation as taking what we know about Nixon's voice and mannerisms and making them his own. You can't watch this performance and call it an imitation and the trailers really don't do his performance justice as they rarely do. Michael Sheen will probably be close to overlooked for his role as David Frost, just as he was overlooked for his role as Tony Blair in "The Queen". There, Helen Mirren stole the show. Here, it's Frank Langella. His performance here is astonishing and he is slowly setting up his reputation as one of the superior leading dramatic actors working today. Sam Rockwell is convincing here in his role as James Reston, Oliver Platt provides some limited comedy relief as Bob Zelnick and Kevin Bacon is fine as Jack Brennan. And it was very nice to see the great Toby Jones at it again, this time as super agent Swifty Lazar.

What a fun and entertaining film this was, from start to finish. You know what the outcome is going to be, but you are still on the edge of your seat. Langella and Frost have a nice chemistry that really helps their scenes together, especially Nixon's late night call to Frost that has become pure speculation and here say over the years. "Frost/Nixon" might wind up the big winner at the Academy Awards. I cannot say it's the best film of the year, but it's certainly one of the best. And, in this day and age when we're receiving film after mediocre film about politics and power struggles, it's nice to see a film that simply hopes to recreate a moment in time and let the audience enjoy. "Frost/Nixon" has that rare quality where you feel like you're watching history - not some grand cinematic achievement, but real history. My recommendations would be Frank Langella for Best Actor, Michael Sheen for Best Supporting Actor, Peter Morgan for Best Adapted Screenplay, Ron Howard for Best Director and "Frost/Nixon" for Best Picture. It should be opening in much wider release, so I suggest you check it out.

9/10.
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