Rating – ****


My knowledge of Richard Nixon has been based on popular culture. He’s a Halloween mask, or the pickled head in a jar from Futurama. I knew vague details of the Watergate scandal but for me Nixon has still always been a bogeyman of the zeitgeist rather than a politician or human being. That’s why I enjoyed Frost Nixon so much; it delivers a satisfying answer and elevates Mr R Milhous Nixon from the levels of pantomime villainy. Maybe I should finally peel of the cellophane from my DVD copy of Oliver Stone’s Nixon too! To be honest I also had no idea that David Frost was such a player back in the day! Yes, the guy from Through the Keyhole!

Right, so I’ve established how blissfully ignorant I can be, so now I’ll move onto the film itself. Frankly I thought it was excellent. Both Michael Sheen and Frank Langella are sublime in their respective roles. I think Kevin Bacon should be mentioned too, he may not get the screen time of the title characters but he is at the centre of one of the most emotional yet restrained moments in the whole film. However, it has to be said that this really is Langella’s film, he has so many juicy resources to feed his performance. He looks and sounds enough like Nixon without crossing into parody. He brings to life a man who was a walking contradiction. Nixon was intelligent and even charming yet he confides in David Frost his deep dislike for most other human beings. His on camera confession during the final interview is as moving as it is satisfying. Ron Howard perfectly balances the conflicting emotions. On one side the American public get the confession they need and the satisfaction that comes from bringing Nixon to his knees. Yet you’ll be surprised how the overwhelming feeling is relief for Nixon as a person, his guilt was a terrible burden.

This is a rare film which achieves the seemingly impossible. You’ll end up routing for both parties, the battle is gripping and the conclusion satisfying. They both win in their own way yet you don’t feel short-changed on any level. It works as a political thriller, and a character study which finds room for humour. Maybe throw in some explosions and tits and you’ve got the film to end all films! In years to come perhaps we can enjoy an adaptation of the inevitable follow up “Ross/Bush”, aka Jonathan Ross Vs George W Bush

~ by thewholebuffalo on July 19, 2009.

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