18 March 2009

Movie Review: Frost/Nixon


2008, 122mins, R
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan
Cast includes: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Hall, Kevin Bacon, Matthew McFadyen
Release Date: 5th December 2008 (Limited)

It’s hard to fathom as to how Frost/Nixon has acquired so few actual statues this awards season, for my money this is possibly the best film running in the top groups and yet as of the moment it has collected a small percentage of the gongs available. I have no qualms in admitting that the picture isn’t the year’s most grand or ambitious cinematic venture but it’s a furiously entertaining and wonderfully acted drama that deserves a good deal more recognition than it is currently getting.

The film is based on actual events, in case and point a series of interviews conducted with disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) by hopeful British TV personality David Frost (Michael Sheen). The interviews where notable as the first TV appearance of Nixon following his ignoble departure from Presidency and to the host David Frost an opportunity to be taken as more than a quipping talk show host. The picture draws most of its runtime from the events surrounding the actual sessions, the financial struggles, the behind the scenes clashes and a close examination of the men at the heart of that momentous moment in television history.

Performance wise the film is flawless, not one person disappoints in their respective roles though in truth most are overshadowed by the sheer thesping quality illuminating from the leads. As Nixon Langella cuts a wonderfully sympathetic and accurate figure of the 37th President, and in truth due to sheer physicality and energy is able to grab the audience at any juncture. Langella has worked hard to capture even the small mannerisms that people have associated with Nixon’s persona over the years, yet he doesn’t overact them to the point of parody. It’s a controlled and skilled performance from an actor who has been all to scarcely sighted in recent years. His equal is however evident in Michael Sheen a man playing a much more refined and inward character. Sheen levels every scene he’s in with a sense of the underdog going into the big time, yet blissfully unaware of the odds that are stacked against him. It’s through David Frost that the audience is given a clear and open window to interact and engage with the story, and Sheen pulls it off splendidly. Kudos also has to go to the likes of Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall and Matthew McFadyen for playing the guys behind the scenes with such vigor and passion. Without them undeniably the credibility of the central duo would be severely lowered.

The screenplay by Peter Morgan is well scribbled and allows the actors to follow a steady and effective development plan for the characters but its Ron Howard’s punchy direction that really grabs and never let’s go. Following 2006’s woeful The Da Vinci Code my faith in Howard had been firmly shaken but here he presents a film as exciting and exhilarating as that picture attempted to be. He has paced the affair supremely well and staged the story more in the atmosphere of a Rocky movie than a drab political documentary. Throwing Nixon’s big boy against the little man in David Frost and having them duke it out in front of the camera is an intrepid way to play the feature, but it works fantastically.

The core reason for the film’s success is the fine performances and the movies reluctance to let anything upstage the characters. I can only say that not only political enthusiasts or those looking to relive Nixon’s darkest hours should make a trip to see Frost/Nixon, it’s a wonderfully well done feature that should grip and hold the masses better than 99% of the mainstream drivel we have to tolerate.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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