Saturday, 20 February 2010

Frost/Nixon

Lowdown: A talk show host tries to milk a confession out of an ex-president.
Review:
I certainly don't have enough data at my disposal to make c confident call on the matter, but it does seem to me as if Richard Nixon was one of the worst presidents the USA has ever had. He was corrupt and contributed to the corruption of politics and to the perception that politics are corrupt (as opposed to what the Kennedys did); there was Vietnam; and there is his contribution for shaping the American health system into the monster it had become. No doubt about it, though: as presidents go, Nixon makes good fodder for the cinema world.
Frost/Nixon is one such film to take advantage of the Nixon phenomenon. It starts as Nixon resigns his presidency in the early seventies and a British talk show host, David Frost (who is still very much active) decides to interview the ex. His assumption is simple: so many people watched Nixon's retire, an interview is bound to rate high and make him lots of money.
Frost, with all of his unlikely background, goes on to secure an exclusive interview with a Nixon anxious for cash. What follows is a review of the woes that beset Frost on his way to securing the interview's finances; the concentrated effort on Frost's side to put Nixon on the trial he never had and get some sort of a confession from him; while on the other hand we have a Nixon that wants to go back to public life. As the interviews themselves commence, it becomes obvious to Frost he is facing a mighty adversary.
Surprisingly for historically based material that is fairly loyal to reality and facts, Frost/Nixon proves to be quite an intriguing film to watch: I was expecting some sort of a political bore with good acting, and I got myself a pretty exciting (albeit not the most thrilling ever) drama that kept me well interested. And yes, the acting is much more than solid: Frank Langella as Nixon is often hard to tell from the genuine article, while Michael Sheen (about whom I never heard prior to his portrayal of Tony Blair in The Queen) seems like an actor who deserves big time.
The trick that makes Frost/Nixon an interesting film is it focusing not on the politics, but on the personal struggles of Frost and Nixon as individuals whose ambitions collide. This makes the story much easier to relate to. That said, director Ron Howard doesn't stray from his regular uninspired style, and while it has to be said he has created a good film I was left wondering what a more daring director might have come up with. A director that wouldn't have resorted to typical clich├ęs prior to the last encounter between Frost and Nixon on whose balance Frost's future lied.
Best scene: The beginnings of the Frost/Nixon interviews, all but the last of them, share a common theme. Frost comes up with a question he considers a knock-out one; Nixon comes back with an answer that knocks Frost down instead. Its a lovely portrayal of a struggle between two individuals, and an even livelier portrayal of frustration.
Technical assessment: The picture on this Blu-ray suffers from the attempt to make everything look the typical brownish red of the seventies. Sound is used to enhance the dramatic climaxes, but it is used too timidly for my taste.
Overall: Solid performances for a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars drama.

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