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As we and the film industry move through time, many biopics that portray real life events are starting to emerge. The problem is that some of these can be sensitive topics to cover, and the film ends up coming short because they just feel shaped around said event rather than giving us true insight into what happened. Frost/Nixon, the 2008 drama from veteran director Ron Howard, has no such problem. He gives us an electrifying, intense look at what many describe as a "boxing match" between ex-president Richard Nixon and TV personality David Frost. Thanks to strong acting, sharp direction and tense pacing, Frost/Nixon is simply brilliant.
Set in 1977, two sides seemingly come together to help build each other's reputation. Nixon wants to renew public interest and regain the trust he's lost after the notorious Watergate scandal. On the other hand, we have the TV personality David Frost. He wants to spread his influence worldwide, and thinks interviewing Nixon will do that. Frost essentially gambles all his money, spending millions on this interview, while Nixon agrees and thinks he can control the questions being asked. What actually happens, however, is a tense ballet of questioning as Frost catches Nixon off guard, only to have the man raise his defences. It sounds like a dull story, but Howard ensures it's constantly interesting with tight pacing, interesting characters and great direction.
Howard sets up Frost/Nixon almost as a metaphorical boxing match. We spend the first part watching these characters prep, as Nixon prepares responses to questions he thinks will be coming up and Frost conjures up testing enquires about Nixon's troubled reign as president. It may seem a little slow, but what it does is build up for the tense, gripping conflict which occurs after. It also gives an interesting insight into how TV production works. Once we hit that point where Frost and Nixon begin filming, things become tense real fast. No doubt due to the performances, we feel every sigh of frustration these characters show and every outburst of anger is one which leaves you biting your nails. The way Howard directs this, building up character and tension, is simply stellar. Because the motivations behind the two characters are given so early on, you know conflict is inevitable, and it becomes like a ticking time-bomb waiting to implode. And boy does it.
Frost/Nixon is undoubtedly bolstered by its powerhouse performances. There is somewhat of an ensemble cast here. Kevin Bacon makes an appearance as Nixon's Chief of Staff and gives a noteworthy performance anchored by aggression. We also get appearances from Rebecca Hall, a possible love-interest for Frost, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt and Matthew Macfadyen. These guys all give great performances, but the real stars of this show are Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, playing Nixon and Frost respectively. They don't just play these real-life people: they embody them. Langella looks weirdly similar to Nixon, and his performance is spot on. Sheen is on top form, bringing real personality and character to Frost. You can feel the anguish, frustration and emotion pulsing out of both these characters, and its criminal neither of them won accolades for it.
Howard seemingly balances two themes here. Though Nixon's interview is obviously a central theme, he also celebrates television itself and how it was changing society at the time. There are sequences with mockumentary interviews, immersing you into the story as well as giving the other actors a chance to flex their skills. As mentioned, Howard offers a fascinating insight into the way Television works, and much of it applies today meaning it has some relevance. At the same time, he creates a lovingly real vision of the 70s - he doesn't overload you with obvious homages to the period, but keeps everything subtle and more effective. The only real obvious aspect is costume design, which is decidedly 70s, but that makes the most sense of course. There's even a tribute to camerawork, as Howard lovingly focuses on characters during the interview to reveal every emotion. There's so much more to Frost/Nixon as a simple political drama.
Are there any flaws to this excellent film? Maybe. One problem perhaps is the depiction of Nixon: though Langella's performance gives us insight to the frustrations and trials he was experiencing, you do perhaps feel that he isn't devious enough. There are moments when Nixon decidedly tries to slime his way through - such as trying to dictate his interview questions and giving long-winded answers to press on filming time to avoid being asked about Watergate - but at the same time, you don't feel as much detest towards his personality as you perhaps should. Maybe it's because Langella's performance is so good you enjoy watching him, but considering Howard seems to dictate which characters fall into which moral category, it seems odd that you almost like Nixon.
But it's not nearly enough to ruin the film. Ron Howard has hand-crafted a fantastic film which doesn't shoehorn itself into one single theme. It not only explores the duel between Frost and Nixon, but also seems to lovingly pay tribute to the 70s, Television and Camerawork. As we watch Nixon and Frost prepare themselves for the interview, you can't get the idea out your head that this is represents some kind of boxing match, and the training serves as a build up to the tense and uncomfortable atmosphere which is emitted from the interviews. Everyone's performance is great, especially Sheen and Langella, and at just around 2 hours long, it feels perfectly crafted. Even if you aren't necessarily a fan of political films, this is simply a must watch masterpiece.
When I first saw the trailers for the film Frost/Nixon, I knew that I would have to see this film. Although not alive at the time of the original interviews I studied A-level history and did alot of work on Nixon and the Watergate scandal, which I found fascinating.
The film is based on a very successful theatre show of the same name, which is a portrayal of the real life television broadcast from 1977 where David Frost famously interviewed the ex-President of the USA Richard Nixon.
This was the first major interview that Richard Nixon had done since resigning from the Presidency in 1974. For those of you that don't know the background I will give you the brief version of events. Nixon had been caught up in the controversial 'Watergate' scandal which started in 1972 when 5 men were caught breaking into the Democratic Party HQ in Washington, also known as the Watergate building. These 5 men were then linked to several staff from the presidential office and eventually to Nixon himself. After discovering a tape recorder in the Presidents Office, Nixon was ordered to hand the tapes over and it was discovered he had been trying to cover up the break in. Before he could be impeached by the Supreme Court however, Nixon resigned from office.
Although, as I have mentioned, I had studied this at a-level and knew alot of the details I was still pleased to see that the film went into the background of this and even showed some real TV footage and news reels from the time. Not only did this set the background of the story it really got you caught up in the feelings of the time. Footages of riots and angry Americans made you really appreciate how angry the general public were at the time, something that really helps you to understand the reactions to the interviews later on in the film.
The film follows Frost from his first idea about conducting the interviews, right through the arrangement of production and coercing Nixon into participating and up until the end where we see the fall out of the interviews.
Not knowing much about David Frost from the 70s it was interesting to see them giving a bit of insight into his life as a chat show host in Australia as you begin to appreciate the momentous effort it was taking him to get the TV stations to take his interview of Nixon seriously. Being a lighthearted entertainer and interviewer Frost struggled not only to get any interest in funding for his project but also struggled to be a match for Nixon in the interviews themselves. The American people, including even his researchers, were vying for Nixons blood , wanting Frost to give him the trial he had never had.
The film was shot as though it was a documentary itself, so all the way through we had moments of narration from some of the central actors as they talked to the camera and discussed the events as they remembered them.
The storyline, although quite simple in that it followed them through the interview process, was engaging and fascinating to watch. I found myself enthralled with the characters and willing Frost on to beat Nixon in the interview mind games and prove everyone wrong.
Frost, played by Michael Sheen, and Nixon, played by Frank Langella, were superbly acted and thoroughly believable in their roles. Not only did I enjoy watching the film but it made me incredibly eager to watch the original interviews to see how they played out.
All in all a highly interesting and compelling film about a significant moment in US history.
Frost/ Nixon is a 2008 film adaptation of the Tony Award winning play which chronicles the interview that took place between disgraced former President, Richard Nixon and lowly English ichat show host David Frost. It is nothing more than a drama. If you can accept that in a film lasting 123 minutes, then you are in for a treat.
Beginning with the events post-Watergate and Nixon's resignation, David Frost, stuck in a role he thinks beneath him is struck with a moment of inspiration following the news coverage of Nixon resignation. Newly installed President Gerald Ford believed that the best way for America to heal in the wake of the revelations of the Watergate Scandal, would be to pardon Nixon in an attempt to consign the whole event to history. The public however do not see it that way. The see it as being robbed of the opportunity for truth and massively oppose it, but no avail. Frost sees this as his opportunity for journalistic immortality and proposes the idea of an interview to Nixon's people, believeing that he can be the man to get a confession or admittance of guilt out of the disgraced President.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, Nixon, having recently recovered from Phlebitis, learns of Frost proposal and is interested, not least because of the substantial half million dollar payment that Frost has offered. Nixon and his aides also intend to use this opportunity to rebuild his credibility and therefore relaunch his political career. Once battle commences it becomes clear only one of the two men will be able to succeed confining the other to the wastelands.
The strength of this film lies in the performances of it's two lead actors. Both Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Shenn as Frost reprise their roles from the original play. The dialogue of the script leans towards its theatrical origins but in no way does that detract from the end product. For a film without one action sequence, explosion or special effect, it still manages to maintatin a taut intensity to rival any thriller seen. The series of interviews will infuriate you and involve you in a way the recent British politcal debates certainly did.
The end, for those who know the story is no surprise, but like most films that immerse the audience in the story, you almost forget that to the point that you almost believe that maybe this time it will be different. Every member of the cast from the two leads to the support from Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon and Matthew McFadyen immerse themselves so wholly in the characters, that this film becomes more documentary than entertainment.
Now while I admit that political drama may not be to everyones liking and my own opinion is tinted by an interest in this period of American history, I do believe that this is a film anyone can enjoy. It can move slowly to begin with, but the film mirrors the interviews themselves It is a matter of the opponents sizing each other up, establishing the boundaries and then letting rip like a heavyweight boxing contest. If anything one of my own disappointments was that there was not more coverage of the interviews, but that's just me.
It definitely ranks as another of those films that can educate as well as entertain, and what more could you want from a night in.
I recently watched the 2008 film Frost / Nixon after my girlfriend purchased it for £3.00 on Play; at that price you can't grumble I suppose. When the film was released at the cinemas it got a generally positive reception from cinema goers and film critics alike, but I found the film quite dull and slow paced being honest.
As the title suggests the film follows the dramatic interviews which take place between English talk show host David Frost and disgraced former United States of America President Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation as President in August 1974. Set in 1977 a few years after this Frost tries to expand his popularity by getting a confession of his mistakes from Nixon, but things aren't quite that simple for him. He struggles to raise cash for the interviews and all of the major American television networks refuse to buy into his project; meaning that he ends up paying a large percentage of Nixon's fee himself. Eventually, they make it to filming the eleven two and a half hour interviews, but things don't get any easier for frost. As a talk show host he is used to gentle conversation, he simply is not prepared for the war of attrition he is to face against Nixon and in the first few interviews Nixon makes mince meat of him. Every time Frost asks a question which he believes to be a good one, Nixon goes on a twenty minute tirade and actually comes out smelling of roses; not exactly what Frost has in mind. I shall leave the plot line there as I don't want to give too much away.
Frost is played by Michael Sheen and I felt he made a really good job of depicting David Frost. He seems to be making these roles of impersonation his own, his role as controversial football manager Brian Clough in The Damned United comes to mind. Nixon is played Frank Langella and I feel that he had the harder job of the two, but did an equally good job. He gets Nixon off to a tee, his voice, mannerisms and overall his personality.
The plotline had elements of humour in it, for example when Nixon calls Frost in the middle of the night and he answers "I'll have a cheeseburger" as he believes it is going to be his girlfriend. They end up chatting for about an hour and it is quite entertaining as Nixon really lets rip and gives Frost some much needed ammunition for their coming meetings. Another interesting part comes when Nixon discovers that he made this call to Frost, he completely forgot and it shows that he is starting to lose his grip.
The Runtime of the DVD is 1 hour and 57 minutes. Although this isn't too long for a film and many films these days are much longer than this, I feel that this one did drag on a bit and only really got going within the last half an hour or so. However, I must agree that it is always harder when a film is recreating history in a documentary style as the audience already know the rough gist of what they are going to see and are simply waiting for the story to unfold.
Extra features on the DVD:
- Deleted Scenes
- The Real Interview
- The Nixon Library
- Feature commentary with director Ron Howard
Overall, I'd say the film is worth watching, but you have to be patient with it. An avid interest in American politics would help too as there are many references to historical events and if you can't get you're head around these issues it makes viewing somewhat difficult. I'd give it three stars.
Thanks for reading, feel free to comment.
In 2008 two names appeared on the big screens of cinema, side by side those names were FROST/NIXON. A man that as a boy attended the very school I did, I was inevitably intrigued by the man's career and life but somehow I managed to let this historical drama film pass by without concern. I deeply regret not seeing this film at the cinema.
Directed by Ron Howard the production dramatises the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. Reuniting the original two lead cast members from the West end and Broadway play, Michael Sheen stars as David Frost and Frank Langella stars as Richard Nixon.
The film has a few noted historical inaccuracies but as an audience we have to remember this is a dramatisation of a docu-film. The story is brilliantly woven and the relationship of a fallen politician and tenacious young journalist intertwines with fantastic cinematic prowess only achieved by a master, Ron Howard. The wonderful thing about this film is the reductive power it holds over the personalities of the two opposing characters. On the one hand Nixon is a political stonewall devoid of emotion and remorse for the heinous mockery he made of the Presidency and on the other he goes someway to becoming human and accountable to the American people (I say this without hoping to offend politically, I know the history of Watergate but my point here is only to serve for the purpose of this film review - it in no way carries a political belief). Then there is Frost, seemingly calm yet actually struggling to find funding for the entire project and financing the whole thing up to a point with his own money. I think in many ways Frost thinks it is enough to let Nixon just be on camera and see if he trips up himself, realising finally in the lead up to the last day of interviewing that it is up to him alone to provoke the right reaction.
The thing is FROST/NIXON is simply splendid, as a film it utterly shocked me - not because of any grand political revelation or underlying didactic that expressed one man's vision of how the events of 1977 should or should not have panned out but because honestly this film is a truly remarkable piece of cinema. I am astonished at just how much I enjoyed every little detail from the plot to the exquisite way Ron Howard shoots every single scene.
The dialogue flows silkily and holds some sharp and weighty intellectual potencies that seamlessly pull emotion and arrogant wit onto the faces of every character in the film. To the actors then, I could not fault one performance, the entire cast reaches highs of an extraordinary level. Sheen and Langella especially, shining through with stellar performances and an almost touching chemistry that displays a contemptible mutual respect and even admiration for one another.
This film is the setting of a standard, I urge everyone to see this film and OK yes I realise that I rarely discourage people not to see a film but I genuinely think this film will hold any audiences attention for the full 123 minutes. It is staggering, a real achievement that casts shadows over many other productions of 2008. Please don't take my word for it or even watch it on the basis of anything you've read, just watch this film.
President Nixon has hit the headlines over bad and illegal dealings over Watergate as a result he has resigned from the Presidency and moved to California to keep a low profile as he is now a hated man. Meanwhile David Frost is making a good career for himself with a talk show and entertainment series in both Australia and England. He is a young and motivated man and suddenly realises that he could get back on the TV in America if he can get an interview with Nixon and try to get a confession out of him.
Frost sets about getting a team together and funding to try and get Nixon to agree to the interview. Fortunately for him Nixon's agent tells him it will be a good way of making money and it will not be hard to evade the probing questions Frost is bound to ask so Nixon does agree to it.
Frost and his team go to America where they meet with the president and the arrangements are all made for a 4 part interview and the subjects which they will include. Frost has a team of men helping get the information and background research for the interview but as Nixon has a great aid and hard man on his side it is not going to be as easy as Frost first though.
Will Frost be able to get the information and confession he so wants from Nixon and will it propel him to the status in America which he so badly wants?
Firstly I would just like to point out that as I was not born until 1981 I had no understanding about the subject matter for this film and only really understood small bits of what the Watergate scandal was about so for me this film was a very good education but for now I will leave the comparisons to the true events to one side and concentrate on the actual film.
I found the storyline was very good and interesting. I did find it helped that we saw details of the Watergate scandal at the start of the film as this put the whole thing and story into context for me as if I was just expected to know what it was about hen the film would not have made sense to me. I found the role of David Frost who was played by Michael Sheen to be excellent, he did come across as quite soft and only doing his job for the fame at times but as the film progressed we got to see a different side to him and learnt hat he was taking his job seriously. He was easy to get to know and at times he did actually seem like a different man to the David Frost which we see on the televisions now as he does not seem the type to want to go to parties and have lady friends.
President Nixon for me was not easy to warm to, he always seemed like he did not want to be on screen and seemed to shy away from the cameras, the role was taken by Frank Langella but as hubby said this is what Nixon was like then I have to say he did do a great job. I found he was quite boring when he spoke and though he had the most awful boring and droning voice which at times made me loose track of what he was saying. He did have a good partnership with Kevin Bacon who played the role of Jack Breenon, the only man to really stand by him and support his decisions. To me Bacon was an excellent choice for the role and I found he came across very well.
The scenes where the interview took place for me were the best bits of the film as I loved watching Nixon trying to put Frost down and throw him off track in his questions, I loved the tactics which he used and found they were quite underhand.
The film was set in 1977 and this is very apparent from the clothing and scenery which e saw throughout the film. It all looked very authentic and made the film seem so much more genuine.
The music throughout the film for me was not at all memorable and considering I only watched this film last night I cannot remember a single track which was played.
The role of Frost and Nixon according to hubby were very good and they both looked sounded and acted the way in which these two men were in real life during the interviews, unfortunately as I have never seen the real interviews then I cannot say if I agree with hubby or not. I did find that at times Michael sheen really did have the voice of Frost down to a tee and he had some of the mannerisms which are noticeable in Frost when he is on the TV at the present time.
The DVD which I have does have some bonus features which include:-
The Making of Frost Nixon
The Real Interview
The Nixon Library
Feature Commentary with Director Ron Howard
As I am not a fan of bonus features I have not taken the time to watch any of these. I am trying to make time to see the original interview which is on this DVD so when I have viewed it I will update this part of the review for you.
The running time of the DVD is 1 hour and 57 minutes and I found this to be quite long enough. The certificate is a 15 as it does contain strong language. The DVD is available on Amazon for just under £5 which I felt to be a great price.
As I had no idea or background to this film I can say that it is still an excellent film which has an easy to follow storyline. For those who do remember the Watergate scandal and the original interviews then this will also interest you as it shows how the interviews got made and just how hard Frost had to push Nixon to get the questions answered. A great all round film.
Frost / Nixon was originally a stage play on both Broadway and the West End and Frank Langella who originally played Nixon on Broadway and won a Tony Award for it reprised his role in the movie. As did Michael Sheen (who is now making a name for himself playing real characters like Tony Blair and Brian Clough), he originally played Frost on both London and New York stages and found himself in the same role for the film.
Ron Howard, director of films like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code, directs this film superbly managing to draw the viewer in at the beginning and hold their attention throughout. The story of David Frost, a jet setting TV presenter wanting to make a comeback and make it big in the States again interviewing Richard Nixon, the disgraced President of the United States of America maybe on the face of it does not sound like an intriguing plot for a film, but you would be wrong it was riveting.
Having been too young to know anything much about the Watergate affair apart from the odd snippets in history or programmes this was a fascinating insight into tricky dicky and his politics. Richard Nixon was forced out of office in August 1974 but kept quiet for three years on the whole Watergate affair until he decided to sit down with David Frost, for a substantial sum of money, for an exclusive interview that would tackle Watergate and the questions surrounding it. Frost was a strange choice of interviewer, hardly known for his hard hitting style, Nixon thought that he would be able to out manouvere the British entertainer! The film follows the initial idea forming in David Frost's mind to the interview ask and then all the preparation both research and financially planning for it, for David Frost the pressure was really on not only to finance it and sell it on to the networks worldwide but to get the right answers and to nail Richard Nixon.
The film has a superb supporting cast which includes Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon and Matthew Macfadyen, each play their part and really add to the film. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen play the two leading roles and are excellent in their performances, they make the film and play each character sympathetically which really adds to the film's class act. Langella was nominated for an Academy Award for this part (losing to Sean Penn in Milk), but I was surprised Michael Sheen wasn't who was equally as brilliant in his role!
This is an excellent movie and I thoroughly recommend it. The performances alone will keep you gripped from start to finish.
The films run time 118 minutes and you can purchase this DVD from Amazon for £5.18, the suggested rrp is £19.99.
Michael Sheen talks of his recurring portrayals of real-life characters as "walking a tightrope" between making for a good story and staying true to the person in question. Over the last five or six years, he's had cause to navigate a number of these high-wires, playing Tony Blair, Brian Clough, Kenneth Williams and HG Wells - a "what do they have in common?" pub quiz question if ever there was one.
Frost/Nixon sees Sheen take on another such role as the first of the titular protagonists, David Frost. The character would have felt familiar (likewise for Frank Langella, playing Richard Nixon); the film being an adaptation of the play of the same name, itself based on the 1977 series of interviews between the English broadcaster and the disgraced former American President.
Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Langella, Ron Howard's 2008 film is an intense and acutely-observed, if slightly exaggerated interpretation of events. Frost was granted thirty hours with Nixon, ostensibly covering a variety of topics, although his agenda was unquestionably to persuade the former President to admit to his involvement in a cover-up of the Watergate affair.
Unable to secure the anticipated backing of the US television networks, Frost was forced to finance much of the project himself, knowing that only a confession from Nixon would save him from financial and professional ruin. With Nixon aiming to restore his standing amongst the American public, both men knew reputations and careers were on the line.
Howard has a keen eye for natural drama, and with the addition of a few contrived twists, is able to manipulate the story into a compelling movie. Frost/Nixon has attracted predictable criticism for the occasional liberties it takes with the truth, but as much as this is a portrayal of recent history, it's also a character study of the intensely conflicting pressures two high-profile figures found themselves under, and how they reacted.
With all due respect to David Frost, Nixon was obviously the bigger name at the time, and accordingly, it's Langella's performance that dominates this film. Despite being an extremely capable and talented politician, the President was often described as awkward and uneasy with himself, and Langella manages to bring both side of Nixon's complex personality convincingly to the screen. The man is often and easily caricatured, yet Langella resists sliding into such a performance, and fully becomes the character he is depicting, reducing the gap between act and reality to a laudably narrow margin.
Asking the questions in the opposite chair, Sheen is typically effective, but doesn't reach quite the heights of his other performances. He opens the film well, and makes an initially impressive job of capturing Frost's mannerisms, although the act seems to slide a little as Langella's brilliant portrayal comes to the fore, and the result is something of a faint approximation of the original intention.
Nonetheless, Sheen is good enough to set the stage for Langella to deliver, and deliver he does. The interviews are right at the core of this film, and provide an enthralling central thread that Howard embellishes with a few diverting sub-plots which complement the main thrust of the film without distracting from it.
At a whisper over two hours in length, the film is not an insubstantial effort, yet it whisks past at a great pace, flashing between intense drama and more contemplative moments, both providing great insight into the mindsets of its major players. It's hard to find flaw with the film - perhaps it's a little predictable and formulaic in its structure and progression, with all the standard elements of a docu-drama, from the phony talking heads to the unsurprising shift of power. That said, when the story's so inherently and intrinsically interesting, why mess around with it? Howard's mandate is surely to bring the fascinating crux of the story and the play to the screen in as neat and compelling a package as he can, and this being so, Frost/Nixon is a delightful triumph.
(Michael Sheen quote from indielondon.co.uk)
The film Frost/Nixon is based on David Frost's infamous interview with Richard Nixon in 1977 three years after he stepped down from the Presidency. The film itself was actually in turn based on a play that showed in 2006.
The great thing about the film is that it manages to turn an event which seems an incredibly odd subject to make a film about. We see a simple interview turn into a battle between Frost and Nixon, the tension is absolutely electrifying. Martin Sheen portrays Frost very well capturing his enthusiasm and charisma. Frank Langella has also done a brilliant job at capturing Richard Nixon, he manages to nail both his voice and his characteristics. The thing that I liked the most about the film though was the relationship that was built up between the two title characters, a relationship built on mutual respect.
Overall I would highly recommend this film to anyone wanting a welcome change from films that are are more about special effects than the characters which are all to common these days such as Transformers.
Frost / Nixon is an excellent film that is very interesting to watch and an enjoyable film. It also feature two excellent performances from the two lead actors whose prescence in front of the camera is powerful and dramatic in the way they portray their characters and the way they interact together.
Not only did I find it an enjoyable film but it was also really informative as well and I enjoyed the subject matter. The film is directed by Ron Howard who is probably one of the best directors in Hollywood at the moment. The film is based upon actual events and uses an interview style to tell the story which is an innovative technique that works really well in this film.
Martin Sheen is excellent as our own political commentator David Frost while Frank Langella is very convincing as Nixon. This is certainly an intelligent bit of film making and the relationship that develops between the two makes for fascinatin viewing.
I liked the fact that this film relies solely on the strength of perfrmance for the two main actors, there are no special effects or flashy action scenes, just good solid dialogue and an insight into a truly significan period of American history not least becof some of the parrallels that can be drawn with current events and their foreign policy.
WHAT IS IT:
Frost/Nixon is a 2008 film based on the real-life set of interviews between David Frost and President Richard Nixon which occurred in 1977. The film was directed by Ron Howard and based on a play by Peter Morgan. It is a tense political drama which uses real footage, reconstructions of classic footage and mock interviews with key players to create the historical context for this infamous meeting.
The film shows David Frost as a playboy TV presenter who, after some success in England and a less than successful period in America, is now presenting 'wacky' TV shows in Australia but is still desperate to have another crack at breaking America. He sees his chance when a he catches a clip of Nixon on the news and persuades producer and friend John Birt that he can get the truth about the Watergate scandal out of him if he can get an interview with him. David Frost is played by Michael Sheen who also played him in the stage play. Sheen really captures the playboy aspect of David Frost but also the grim determination to make it in America whatever it takes. He exudes the easy charm that Frost uses to attract women as well as to lull interviewees into a false sense of security. He also captures the ferocity of Frost which lies beneath his affable exterior. Rather than doing an out-and-out impersonation of Frost, Sheen adopts his mannerisms and speech patterns very naturally and uses these to expose the insecurity, loneliness and hunger for fame that drive Frost to face Nixon. This is a superb performance although I have come to expect nothing less from Sheen as an actor.
A performance as sophisticated and competent as Sheen's requires an equally strong performance from the other lead actor; Frank Langella provides this in his portrayal of the ailing and disgraced Nixon. Nixon sees the interviews with Frost as an opportunity to ingratiate himself with the American public following the Watergate scandal. He also sees it as a chance to make some easy cash. He soon comes unstuck and in one very tense scene, his deepest insecurities come out as he compares his motivations to Frost's in a late night drunken phone call. Langella plays this part beautifully. At the beginning of the interview scenes, he leads Frost on a merry dance, demonstrating exactly why he was called Tricky Dick. But as Nixon lies and cover-ups are exposed, Langella's face displays his heartbreak incredibly vividly. Again, he does not play the part as an impression or caricature but allows Nixon to inhabit him completely. I found his performance very poignant and moving which is no mean feat considering that Nixon has become such a target for scorn. The phone call scene is absolutely electrifying as the drunken ex-president vents his hatred of all those around him that look down on him and I could not take my eyes off Langella as he reached his crescendo.
I cannot write this review without a brief mention of Sam Rockwell's performance. Readers of my other film reviews (such as Moon) will know that I am a big fan of Sam Rockwell; yet again he did not disappoint me in his portrayal of investigator James Reston Jr, employed by Frost to look into the details surround Watergate. He plays this with a great deal of passion and is completely believable in the role. His reaction to Nixon admissions during the interview symbolise the disbelief of the average viewer who would never have expected the impeached President to confess in such a public manner.
Kevin Bacon puts in a good turn as Nixon's chief of staff. He really captures that military loyalty and sense of unquestioning allegiance. There are also some very tender moments between him and Nixon which remind the viewer of Nixon's frailty and humanity.
The one piece of casting which struck me as a little off was Toby Jones as Irving 'Swifty' Lazar, Nixon's literary agent. His accent wanders at times which can be a little distracting and I found his performance as the Brooklyn-born moneyman a little clichéd.
I found the mixture of different styles worked really well in this film. The archive footage at the beginning sets the scene and the reconstructions of archive footage (with Langella playing Nixon) throughout the film maintain this connection to the historical context. There also many mock interviews with other characters when they talk directly to the camera giving their view on what is happening. This stops the focus drawing in too closely on Frost and Nixon and reminds the viewer of the significance of what Nixon has done and the impact that his confessions have. Although the film is 2 hours long, it goes along at a terrific pace and keeps the viewer constantly engaged.
Although I know very little about the historical context of this film, I still enjoyed it immensely. The cast is extremely strong and the two central performances are complex and captivating. The different styles used really set the scene well and keep the viewer engaged, showing both the human relationship between Frost and Nixon and the wider significance of their meeting. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone.
The film starts and you begin by really reviewing Michael Sheen's portrayal of David Frost and Frank Langella's Nixon, ok so they both look like their characters, even Matthew MacFadyen looks very much like John Birt, following a brief introduction to Watergate and Nixon leaving the White House in disgrace, we follow Frost as he seeks an interview with Nixon, his goal being to get television gold and make Nixon confess to having taken part in the bugging of political rivals.
So to start with Michael Sheen is great as Frost, he has an air of coquettish arrogance, an undeniable self-belief and a glint in his eye. But as he attempts to convince tv folk to pay for the interview it is clear he is viewed as lightweight and a comedy interviewer rather than a serious political heavyweight, but behind the smile and effete nature, it is commented that Frost doesn't do failure, his forced smile at various stages through the film does make you wonder though.
Langella on the other hand plays Nixon as a man wronged, somebody who against overwhelming evidence refuses to accept responsibility for his actions, he seems keen to cash in where he can and this allied to his own belief that he did no wrong loop him into the interview.
Like two battered heavyweights with one last title challenge in them, the build up to the interview shows the preparation both make for the interview, Frost meets a beautiful woman on a plane and invites her to accompany him to meet Nixon.
Watching the characters first meeting at Nixon's home, it is clear that both characters have enormous ego's, it is also clear that Frost is sizing Nixon up working out how to catch this enormous fish and reel him in.
It is clear when Frost pays Nixon directly for the interview $200,000 from his own cheque book how much both of these characters want the interview.
Frost decides to produce the interview himself and syndicate it worldwide in a groundbreaking idea and it is actually genius, he calls in Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston Jr (Sam Rockwell) to research Nixon and Watergate and find chinks in the armour for their interview.
Reston Jr is quite challenging to Frost in asking deep questions, and tells Frost he will only help if this interview can become the trial Nixon deserved but never had. His powerful desire for justice has a real effect on Frost taking him awaty from simply considering this interview as a career move
Frank Langella ... Richard Nixon
Michael Sheen ... David Frost
Sam Rockwell ... James Reston, Jr.
Kevin Bacon ... Jack Brennan
Matthew Macfadyen ... John Birt
Oliver Platt ... Bob Zelnick
Rebecca Hall ... Caroline Cushing
Toby Jones ... Swifty Lazar
Andy Milder ... Frank Gannon
Kate Jennings Grant ... Diane Sawyer
Gabriel Jarret ... Ken Khachigian
Jim Meskimen ... Ray Price
Patty McCormack ... Pat Nixon
Geoffrey Blake ... Interview Director
Clint Howard ... Lloyd Davis
Rance Howard ... Ollie
Gavin Grazer ... White House Director
Simon James ... Frost Show Director
Eloy Casados ... Manolo Sanchez
Jay White ... Neil Diamond
Wil Albert ... Sammy Cahn (as Will Albert)
Keith MacKechnie ... Marv Minoff
Penny L. Moore ... Lady with Dachshund (as Penny Moore)
Janneke Arent ... Frost's Female Assistant
For the first quarter of this film its very hard to find a sympathetic character, Sheen plays Frost as a man with his eyes on the prize, the prize being his own celebrity, hosting a chat show on Australian tv after having his UK show shelved, he sees Nixon leave Water House following the Watergate affair and visits John Birt a producer to explain that he'd like to interview the man. He comes across as a shiny plastic man with a shiny plastic charm and smile. As the film progresses and the interviews appear lifeless and in Nixon's hands we see the vulnerable side of Frost a man who begins to doubt himself as merely a 'Talk Show Host' and somebody who is trying desperately to sell his interview without much interest. Sheen is superb and utterly convincing.
However as the film progresses it is clear that this synthetic exterior layer hides a sharp intellect, on the other hand, Richard Nixon is a bloated caricature, a man who believes he was not wrong to bug political rivals, a man who believes he deserves the money people throw at him in the hope he admits his guilt. His monologues in the interviews are amazing and his desire to get inside Frost's head and upset and confuse him are interesting, Langella deserves all the success in the world for an outstanding performance.
The interview between the two characters is a chance for them both to redeem themselves and it is a great build up, shot in action and interview format with the main characters it follows a lot of the formats of Peter Morgan's successful stage play starring Sheen and Langella. The interviews are slow and totally in Nixon's hands until the final interview about Watergate by which time Frost doubts himself almost as much as everyone else does.
The introduction of Rockwell and Platt as journalists keen to nail Nixon is great, both are sharp concise minds and get behind the questions with deep research, they create a format for the interviews and really want to nail Nixon for the good of their country. Rockwell in particular is magnetic and is the only person in the Frost camp who takes any presence away from Sheen's character.
I loved this film it is a return to intelligent film making, Frost is a caricature for a large part of the film but once the interview starts he really comes alive showing exactly what he is made of.
Langella plays Nixon perfectly, he is like an overweight fighter past his best, still feeling he has the beating of his opponent but lazy and undiscerning, he wants the interview to be his renaissance, the horseplay prior to the interview over what can and can't be discussed is very interesting, the conversations between Frost and Nixon's trusted advisor (Kevin Bacon in one of his best roles) is particularly interesting and challenging. He compares his boss to a fighter as he discusses the interview and watches Nixon totally destroy Frosts opening question.
The conversations between the researchers form the basis of the intellectual management of the interview, Frost is labelled a performer by Birt prior to the interview which really upsets the researchers, but is a great precursor to the interviews that follow.
Watching the researchers meet Nixon and totally lose their hard faced killer instinct is amusing, it shows that despite his wrongs he still had a charisma which only a President could perfect. The horseplay between interviewer and interviewee prior to the interview is interesting as Nixon tries to psyche Frost out aware that he is struggling to find funds for the interview.
For me the key moment in the film is a shot just prior to the first interview when Nixon is sat in his chair chatting informally to Frost about how he lost to Kennedy and he felt it was due to sweat on his top lip putting off tv viewers. At that moment the shot through a camera looks directly at him as he comments how close ups can change somebody's life, little does he know.....
The interviews are electric, giving Sheen and Langella a chance to shine, their cat and mouse interviews are amazing, both shine brilliantly, Frost gets to the heart of what Nixon did wrong and Nixon tries to defend himself using the assertion that he felt it was right to do what he did. Frost throws in very tricky questions, Nixon makes comments about their contractual agreements over what can be asked and his constant sniping of Frosts dress sense show his disdain for the man.
Using the boxing connotation, during the first interview we see Frost ask a question and Nixon take 23 minutes to answer it knowing as only a politician could that he is boring the interviewer, audience and evertyone negating further questions and killing time, much like Ali's rope a dope, as producers panic and lambast Frost, from his calm demeanour and grin we realise Frost is actually encouraging this because allowing Nixon to ramble means he is opening up and prone to reveal something surprising and he's right, at this point we see Frost as the master interviewer that we now all know he is.
The interviews are based on the real interviews and were a seminal moment in American politics changing political reporting, American political machinations and television.
The film looks authentically seventies, the clothing and general styles are perfect, the dialogue is excellent ,challenging, thoughtful and funny, while not being too weighty, there isn't a duff performance in sight, the film is paced brilliantly and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about this era, I learnt a lot from the film and hope to read more books now on a seminal period in American journalism and politics.
The DVD is available for £8.88 on Amazon.com.
Having seen adverts for this on television, I decided that, despite my very limited knowledge of all things political, this looked to be an interesting movie. I liked the idea that the film was not Watergate itself, but the fallout from this and the leadup to the interview.
It starts well, explaining briefly Watergate and what happened etc, this was good, as I genuinely had no idea.
David Frosts Character is great, and I was actually interested to learn some of the facts about his career. The character is played very well, and you can tell that it has been researched very well. I could almost feel the emotions as they played on his face, really seemed like this was the first time he had spoken the lines and met the people.
I was also very impressed by the way that Nixon was depicted in the movie. I was concerned that it would be very one sided, but I found him charming and, like Frost, found that I had alot of respect for, what appeared to be a very proud, old man by the end of it.
The interview sections were a little disappointing, but I suppose that there is only so much that you can do with the truth. The revalations made did not seem as explosive as in the adverts.
One quirky part of the movie, was the interview style intervals throughout that gave little insights into the characters and how they were feeling, in a way a book would give them thoughts. This was very interesting to me, and lead me away from thinking that it was a move, and it more seemed like a documentary style.
This certainly suited the theme of the film, and added little breaks to what could have become a little tiresome.
This movie goes on the shelf for 'movies where nothing really happens' I can put it in action, comedy, horror, etc, These are usally the most gripping and thought provoking of the movies that I own and this one does not let down. Well worthwhile buying and highly recommended.
This DVD also has the real interview as a special feature, which is great for comparisons to the movie, and shows how well the characters have been played.
Its hard to criticise the plot line and story of any movie which is based on a true one, however I'm afraid I'm going to.
I had very high hopes for this movie, perhaps a little too high. Although it was an enjoyable watch I had one major complaint. Surely the focal point of the movie was the actual interview between Frost and Nixon about Watergate and therefore this deserved some serious screen time. However I personally felt the build up to the interview was too much and then the actual interview was just skimmed over in 5 or so minutes. I must confess to never having seen the original interview, and perhaps this is how it happened, however if you're going to make a Hollywood movie about it, surely a little bit of over exaggerating the point wouldn't go a miss.
That said, its still an excellent movie, it just didn't quite meet the high expectations I had for it. The acting is brilliant, particularly Michael Sheen who plays the part of a young David Frost perfectly, and I would still recommend it. I just wished they'd stretched out the interview a little longer and really captured the moment.
I watched this last night, and really enjoyed this film which depict the events following Nixon's resignation after Watergate and subsequently David Frost's interview with Nixon where he admitted to letting the nation down.
I'm a fan of American politics, but this is a period I know little about. So it was really interesting to have an insight into what happened after Nixon resigned.
However, the most interesting part of the film for me was the David Frost side of the story. I didn't know that Frost, now famous for Through The Keyhole had been (and probably still is) such a heavy weight in the television industry. The film shows how Frost, supported by colleague John Birt, persuaded Nixon to take part in the interviews. It then tells the story of how they then struggled to finance the whole project and sell it to American Networks, and then, the most interesting part for me, the assembling of a team of experts and researchers to prepare the strategy for the interview.
Frost was played by Michael Sheen, who is an excellent actor (particularly good at playing Tony Blair). He did do a few to many Tony Blair-style 'mugs' to camera, but this is forgiven as he's so good and believable.
The film portrays both characters as in a boxing match, facing up to a bout, which is a very interesting structure that worked very well. All in all, this was a very enjoyable watch, and I would highly recommend it to all who enjoy intelligent films.