Friday, 30 January 2009

Frost/Nixon - Review


In a nutshell...
I gotta admit being 22 and born into the world 9 years after the actual event, up until now it has probably sparked little interest for me, however with all the who-ha of the election last year and the drama that came from it, the whole arena has suddenly sparked my attention. Starring two under rated actors of modern cinema, Michael Sheen (you know, the guy who played Tony Blair in The Queen) and Frank Langella (he probably doesn't want you to remember, but I do, the guy who played Skelator in the original live action He-Man movie but besides that was excellent in Goodnight and Goodluck) from the stage adaptation by Peter Morgan (who also penned the screenplay) and, one of my least favourite directors the happy go lucky Ron Howard. Set after the events of the historic Watergate scandal which ruined Nixon's presidency, David Frost having made it big as a chat show host in various parts of the world, London, New York and now Australia sees this as an opportunity to really hit the big time with the interview of his career and subsequently Richard Nixon now forced (against his own will, some might say) into retirement sees Frost as a lightweight presenter who he can take complete advantage of to take him back into the public eye and set the record straight as a way of redeeming himself.

The sides are taken for this battle of wits between the two men, with an excellent supporting cast that gives both 'fighters' the chance to really excel: in Frost's corner you have producer John Birt (played by Matthew MacFadyen), Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston Jr (played with much drive and intensity by Sam Rockwell) and in Nixon's corner you have Jack Brennen (Kevin Bacon) and to a somewhat lesser extent Swifty Lazar (Toby Jones). One of the aspects of this film I enjoyed was the transformation of Frost as a light hearted playboy/chat show host into the determined political interviewer that I have grown up to know him as today, as well as Langella's performance as Nixon who played the role with a human touch so to not completely demonise the man and actually towards the end of the film nearly having sympathy for him summed up in Reston's quote in the film's closing moments "Richard Nixon's face swollen and ravaged by loneliness, self-loathing and defeat." Throughout the film you never have a sense that Nixon was evil and out to screw over the American people, everything he did he tried to do for the good of his nation, which is a somewhat endearing quality that was brought to the role unlike previous portrayals like Anthony Hopkins' in the 1995 Oscar nominated film Nixon.

Everything about this film was right on the money for me, possibly my only criticism is that there could have been more focus on the first two interviews like there was in the final one, but then having watched the original thereafter you can probably see why for dramatization purposes why this might of been the case. Think the greatest injustice of this film is within the award nominations, yes it full deserves its place within the Best Picture contenders but Im extremely disappointed not to see Michael Sheen nominated in the Best Actor category along with his co-star, who is nominated, Frank Langella. Overall though Frost/Nixon is an extremely pleasant watch which faithfully reinacts the events leading up to the interviews that took place in 1977 and is held together by outstanding performances from its leading men and without a doubt it's supporting cast. Why the hell wasn't Sam Rockwell nominated for Best Supporting Actor? Go see. Now.

Stand Out Scene...
The scene with the stand out quote possibly. The final moments of the interview where David Frost throws down his notes and seeing Richard Nixon reduced to a broken fragile man who has finally acceapted defeat and subsequently concedes he has let the American people down.

Stand Out Quote...
From the previous aforementioned scene,
David Frost: "Are you really saying the President can do something illegal?"
Richard Nixon: "I'm saying that when the President does it, that means it's *not* illegal!"
David Frost: "...I'm Sorry?"

If you like this movie watch...
Michael Sheen take on another pivitol historical moment as Tony Blair in The Queen, or Oliver Stone's 1995 film starring Anthony Hopkins entitled Nixon.

Next week: Double header review of Milk and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

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