February 4, 2009 -- This is a dramatization of the events surrounding the famous 1977 interview by TV presenter David Frost of ex-U.S. President Richard Nixon. As he did in a previous film, “Apollo 13,” director Ron Howard allows the tension to steadily increase throughout the film until we get to the crucial interview about the Watergate break-in and coverup that eventually led to Nixon's resignation. Even though we know the outcome, once again the magic works for Ron Howard and a fine cast of actors.
Nixon viewed the series of interviews with Frost as a way to rehabilitate his reputation, allowing him to resume his role as a major player in national politics. For Frost, who had no interest in politics at all, it was a battle for survival. He was on the brink of professional and financial collapse. For the interviews to be a success, he had to get Nixon to admit wrongdoing in the Watergate scandal, something Nixon had scrupulously avoided doing for years. Nixon viewed the interviews as a no-holds-barred battle of wills and he was a worthy adversary. Frost was more of an unknown quantity at the time.
Frank Langella gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Nixon. Great supporting performances are given by Kevin Bacon as Nixon aide Jack Brennan, Sam Rockwell as author James Reston Jr., Oliver Platt as journalist Bob Zelnick, Michael Sheen as Frost and Toby Jones as show business agent Swifty Lazar. In addition to his superb acting, Langella performs a piano piece in the film that was composed by Nixon.
This is one of the best films of the year. Frost and Nixon are both fascinating characters. The fact that Nixon actually admitted wrongdoing in a national TV interview is a tribute both to Frost and to Nixon himself. Can you imagine George Bush ever admitting wrongdoing about leading the nation into war under false pretenses? It seems highly unlikely. Despite being an overt Christian, Bush doesn't seem to have the kind of conscience that Nixon shows in this film, or the kind of black and white sense of right and wrong, or the patriotism to put his country ahead of himself. If Nixon were a truly evil person, he never would have admitted doing anything wrong, and he would have won the interview and regained his prominence. He would have polished his image in much the same way Reagan did after he left office. After eight years of Bush and this film, Nixon doesn't look so bad. In fact, Bush has already boosted Nixon up at least one place higher in the pantheon of U.S. Presidents. The tragedy is he damned near ruined the country in doing so. This film rates an A.
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