Frost/Nixon Review

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There is something about historical films that I just can’t resist… especially modern history that may be JUST before my time. Movies about events I had always heard about but didn’t really know a lot about. I find these sorts of movies fascinating for different reasons, but political ones get me the most interested. So it really shouldn’t surprise you to know that I had been looking forward to seeing Frost/Nixon very much.

I’ve always known about Richard Nixon, the only President in the history of the United States to resign the presidency. I’ve always known it was about Watergate. But really, my knowledge stopped there. To see a movie actually made about the time after his resignation, especially surrounding the events of the Frost interviews was something I’ve really been looking forward to. This film, like many other released this time of year, has a lot of Oscar buzz around it. Deserved? Yup.

THE GENERAL IDEA

The synopsis for Frost/Nixon reads something like this: “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’s 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.”

THE GOOD

Holy freaking crap… I’ve always known that Frank Langella was a good actor (he’s Skeletor bitches!) but whenever I’ve seen actors try to portray Richard Nixon, they usually come off looking a little silly. Nixon isn’t an easy guy to play without doing so. But my jaw was on the floor watching Langella play Nixon. He was perfect. Not only was he perfect, he brought out the genius of he man. The power of the man. The cunning of the man. The likability of the man. The treachery of the man. The good side of the man and the bad side of the man. He was a compelling and powerful CHARACTER as opposed to the CHARACITURE that many other performers end up making him look like. Nixon, the man, was a formidable and imposing person. Intimidating, not because of his power, but because of his incredible intelligence and quick thinking… usually undone by his temper and his reactive nature. Damn I loved every second Langella was on screen playing this man. I have no doubt in my mind he’ll be up for an Oscar for his performance.

Sometimes movies like Frost/Nixon can focus entirely on the main characters and forget that in any real life story there are always key people out of the spotlight that add to it and shape it in immeasurable ways. This film does a great job of showing the people surrounding Frost and Nixon and how they individually influenced history and the more famous events. I usually find their stories even more interesting that those of the main characters.

For a movie with no “action” other than two men sitting in comfy chairs across from one another, the tension they were able to build into it was impressive. The way these two spared, playing verbal chess was actually exciting to watch as Frost tried as hard as possible to back Nixon into a corner to publicly convict him of charges he would never face in court, while Nixon used his intellectual judo to use Frost’s own questions against him as he tried to use the interview to rebuild his public image. Great stuff.

THE BAD

I’m going to be in the minority here… but I wasn’t at all impressed with the performance of Michael Sheen as Frost. This was really disappointing to me because I count myself as a Michael Sheen fan and usually love his work (he is amazing as the leader of the Lycans, Lucian, in Underworld and I can’t wait to see him in Underworld 3), but he never sold me on Frost at all. While Langella gave us insight and depth to Nixon, Sheen felt like he was always just giving us the surface of Frost, and when the script called for his to give us something a little deeper, he just couldn’t seem to take us there. Whatever… I’m still a fan.

For the uninitiated (including myself), even though the movie isn’t about Watergate, the fact of the matter is that the events of the movie are a result of Watergate, and I think the movie should have dedicated maybe 5 minutes here or there to really lay out for the audience (many of whom weren’t even born where those events happened) what Watergate was and exactly what went down. Without that context, I think the sheer magnitude of the events will be lost on some people.

OVERALL

Frost/Nixon is a compelling and riveting political drama headlined by one of the very best performances of the year by Frank Langella. The movie shows a deeper cast of characters than many other films cut from the same cloth generally do and never once felt like it dragged. Yeah, Sheen wasn’t great as Frost and some more historical context would have added to it… but neither of those were deal breakers. Overall I give Frost/Nixon an 8.5 out of 10

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16 thoughts on “Frost/Nixon Review

  1. To see the real Richard Nixon your have to see the documentary Apocalypse Africa Made in America. It contains the recordings of Richard Nixon that were once sealed in which he refers to blacks as ‘just out of the trees with spears’ and aborted black fetuses as ‘the little black bastards.’ What Nixon and his cronies did to Africa makes the Iraq war look like child’s play. This documentary is a must see. Richard Nixon’s sins have been overlooked for far too long, and must be re-investigated for history to be complete. Google NSSM 200 and you’ll see.

  2. I LOVED Frost/Nixon, best film of the year IMO. However, John, sorry man, have to disagree but I liked Sheen’s performance

  3. I agree about Mr. Sheen’s performance. I felt like I was watching Dudley Moore when he was in Foul Play. Also agree about Mr. Langella’s outstanding performance. Alas, if you watch the real interview, Mr. Nixon didn’t come close to the emotional depth that is portrayed in the film. Still, well worth seeing. Perhaps there will be a pairing of it with All The President’s Men (also an excellent film). I too thought Ms. Hall’s part was a waste. I kept expecting her to turn out to be a Republican plant (too many spy films I guess). She really did little but show that Frost wasn’t 100% focused on the project.

  4. How refreshing to see a classy movie that doesn’t rely on flashy special effects, gratuitous violence or a multitude of steamy sex scenes. Great writing, excellent debating and a fascinating clash of human wills where there could be only one winner. Full marks to Frank Langella and Michael Sheen for their superb performances.

  5. But if you were older, you’d know that the movie isn’t very accurate, historically. See Elizabeth Drew’s review on Huffington Post.

  6. Completely agree about Nixon portrayal, but overall, I was let down by the movie. Not sure exactly what I was expecting, but it just wasn’t up to par for me. I was surprised to learn of its nominations.

  7. I don’t know if I am going to see this. At first I was excited but I have heard a lot of critique saying it is historically of key by more than a whistle. I might be alone in this but I can’t stand it when history gets distorted…

  8. so this DK and Wall E are yor top three films of the year. Seems lately the 8 out of 10 has been popular but I didn’t expect wrestler to do so bad.

  9. I was so pumped for this last weekend and it didn’t get released in miami. Apparently it won’t be out around here till christmas…so shitty.

  10. The biggest flaw of this film for me was that Rebecca Hall was a complete throwaway character. Seriously, her character did absolutely nothing for this film. It was sad to see such a brilliant actress wasted.

  11. It’s nice to see such a high score for this film. And, no offence, I’m sorry you are part of the uninitiated when it comes to the Watergate scandal. It just goes to show how well the education system is working; I’d suggest at least just picking up All the President’s Men and getting a little idea. God knows the History Channel has 10 hours dedicated to it somewhere.

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