Plot: A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Peter Morgan (screenplay), Peter Morgan (play)
Stars: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen and Kevin Bacon
"Only one can win, Mr. Frost"
The first duty of a man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth.
I never liked Ron Howard's movies. I was disgusted when I saw Russel Crowe painting invisible umbrella on the sky for Jennifer Conelly (A Beautiful Mind) and I nearly vomited when Audrey Tautou said 'c'est ne pas possible!' in the butchered adaptation od 'The Da Vinci Code". So when I heard about 'Frost/Nixon' i thought that it's gonna be filled with cheap tricks, pathetic and forced emotional scenes (like the one with Nobel prize in ABM at that point I nearly puked on my TV too).
But what a surprise! Not only is the movie one of the finest ones this year, it is one of the best political thrillers I've ever seen. And what a unique kind of a thriller it is.
I'm not exactly sure what was up with Watergate and prior to the movie I had absolutely no idea who David Frost was. But I was excited and I saw the movie because of the wonderful cast - Michael Sheen, who I adored so much in 'The Queen', Sam Rockwell, who is one of the most underrated actors right now, Kevin Bacon, who was great in 'Mystic River' and he does wonderful things on screen if he doesn't play a vilian and Rebecca Hall, golden globe nominee for new Woody Allen's movie 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'.
The cast is the movie greatest asset. Frank Langella plays Nixon so well that the viewer absolutely looses the idea that he is in fact watching the movie. I don't really know why Mickey Rourke will win oscar this year, since his performance is miles away behind Langella's (and miles MILES away behind Penn's in Milk). Michael Sheen is as good as his opponent, bringing so much life and passion in the character of David Frost, with his eccentric 'Hello, good evening and welcome', his playboy's attitude and his joyful, optimistic approach to things. Olivier Platt and Sam Rockwell are hilarious, especially the latter with his comments and funny look, so different than his other roles. I also greatly enjoyed Kevin Bacon's portrayal of Nixon's bodyguard and right hand, he was terrific and I can't imagine any good reason why neither he nor Michael Sheen aren't nominated for any of major awards this year (beacause nominating them for best ensemble during SAG is simply not enough and that is another piece in hall of shame called 'academy awards').
Another strong side of the film is the amazing screenplay by Peter Morgan, same person who wrote 'The Queen' (btw apparantly the man is loving Michael Sheen as much as i do, since with 'Damned United' which premieres in march they will have made 4 movies together). The story, presented almost as documentary, without any shootouts, any car chases, any wild love scenes, without fights, without explosions, is the most thrilling thig I saw among oscar nominated movies this year. Frost's interviews with Nixon are indeed like a boxing match, which has its viewer on the edge of the seat through the whole thing, beautifully dramatized with the help of some of the finest editing and cinematography i saw in a very long time, and more importantly, masterpiece soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.
The story is quite complex and there are many recurring motives such as the italian shoes, which Frost wears and Nixon finds very feminine, pararells between two men's lives - Frost leaving for interview being kissed by his girlfriend, Nixon by his wife,
Frost surrounded by rich and famous on his birthday party, Nixon gracefully playing piano in his estate, Frost hosting ridiculous tv programs and Nixon telling silly anegdotes, even the staff of both men is presented in the same way
- it all comes down to the phone call from Nixon to Frost (the movie most crucial scene) when he concludes that they are both the same.
I had a very hard time figuring out the importance of that final phone call, after which the fellowing day Frost got his wanted confession of sins from Nixon. Then finally I understand that at that moment, when Nixon shouted about his feelings, his disappointments, drunk and furious, Frost had realized that he can defeat him. It was like slap across the face and waking call - only one of them could win that battle.
They did use different ways to win - Nixon has tricks - he has a pretty blonde in his staff, who imediately attracts the attention of Frost's associates, he drags on instead of answering the questions, he is trying to purposely distract Frost and he succeeds in 3 battles. but the forth one is Frost's win, the one that history remembered. Frost was only interested in the truth - there is a quick scene near the begining of the movie when Frost is watching Nixon on TV, when he was giving up his presidency - there is a fleeting expression of sadness and defeat in his face, which Frost immediatly catches - i had a feeling throughout the film that this moment was the reason for which Frost wanted the interview and the reason beacuse of which he knew Nixon will finally say the truth.
I was surprised how funny the movie was at times, 'cause after overdramatized 'A beautiful mind' and absolutely wooden 'the da vinci code' i was expecting something incredibly morbid with babies drowning in the bath tubs and crazy monks again. Some of the line deliveries like Rockwell's "Daddy you're the finest man i know?!" and Becon's "This is beautiful" along with Michael Sheen's fake joy from interviews in Nixon's presence and his utter bordom when Nixon was answering one question for dozens of minutes had me rolling in laughter and tears.
Prior to it's adaption the movie's story was a theatre play, and Sheen and Langella were Frost and Nixon on stage. There is one other movie this year which was previously a play - 'Doubt' - in that case you can totally see it, it was actually destined to be that way, but "Frost/Nixon' with it's complexity, many settings, bunch of different footage and importance of the story seems to be a dream movie material and apparantly even Ron Howard couldn't screw it up. It's one of the best movies of 2008.