Friday, December 26, 2008

Review: Frost/Nixon (2008)

I was right to be excited about this one, because it is superb. I don't know why, but when I think of a Ron Howard film, I think pseudo directing. Maybe the DaVinci Code did that for me. Or How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Or Cinderella Man. He's sometimes hard to figure out.

But here, I think he hit the mark. Frost/Nixon is about the aftermath of the notorious Watergate scandal, and Richard Nixon's resignation from office. Of course, after seeing it, that's not what it's really about. It's about a battle of wills between two men.

Frost and Nixon, played by Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, respectively, reprising their roles from broadway (I can't imagine how sick I would be of a role if I played it for a run on Broadway, then in a movie), both deliver devastatingly fantastic performances. I'm young, and to be honest I really don't know anything about Richard Nixon and especially not David Frost, but I trust that they're both good depictions of their characters. There is a scene where Frank Langella is talking to Michael Sheen on speakerphone, so he's able to use his whole body to act, and he does. He does it without having anybody present to work off of. I thought that was fantastic.

The film opens with a tense collage of archival footage, giving viewers a brief history of the last days of Nixon's presidency. I'm reminded very much of Steven Spielberg's Munich, showing just an outdoor show of the White House, with the implied "He's in there somewhere... What's he thinking?" It's very effective, and I'm drawn in immediately.

As for secondary characters, Sam Rockwell has to take the gold here. He plays a passionate anti-Nixon author devoted to "giving him the trial he never had." I loved watching him. He was very earnest, very believable, and very very good. Following him are Oliver Platt and Matthew McFadyen, playing the other two members of Frost's team. They all had great chemistry. Kevin Bacon's role of Nixon Chief of Staff Jack Brennan almost seemed like a joke. Like he was mocking him, with his VERY earnest reactions to Nixon's tale of his daughter hugging him with tears in her eyes when he was about to resign; "That's Beautiful.." Don't get me wrong, he was great, but the character is.. Weird.

This movie has great moments of tension, a fair few moments of comedy, and just the tiniest bit of history thrown in. The premise itself, of forcing President Nixon to apologize to the American People, is apparently much more dramatized than it was, and less important in real life. Or at least, my dad tells me so.

Grade: A

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