From Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard comes the electrifying, untold story behind one of the most unforgettable moments in history. When disgraced President Richard Nixon agreed to an interview with jet-setting television personality, David Frost, he thought he’d found the key to saving his tarnished legacy. But, with a name to make and a reputation to overcome, Frost became one of Nixon’s most formidable adversaries and engaged the leader in a charged battle of wits that changed the face of politics forever. Featuring brilliant portrayals by Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon is the fascinating and suspenseful story of truth, accountability, secrets and lies.
Sounds like a good match: a historical drama from the author of The Queen
, but with an American subject in the generational wheelhouse of director Ron Howard. And so Peter Morgan's Tony-winning play morphs into a Hollywood movie under the wing of the Apollo 13
guy. Morgan's subject is a curious moment of post-Watergate shakeout: British TV host David Frost's long-form interviews with ex-President Richard Nixon, conducted in 1977. It was a big ratings success at the time, justifying the somewhat controversial decision to cut an enormous check for Nixon's services. The movie adds a mockumentary note to the otherwise straightforward style, having direct-to-camera addresses from various aides to Frost and Nixon (played by the likes of Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell, and Kevin Bacon); these basically tell us things we already glean from the rest of the movie, adding unnecessary melodrama and upping the stakes. In this curious scheme, the success of Frost's career, which could bellyflop if he doesn't get something worthwhile out of the cagey, long-winded Nixon, is given somewhat more weight than the actual revelations of the interviews. Even with these questionable storytelling decisions, there's still the spectacle of two actors going at it hammer and tongs, and on that level the movie offers some heat. Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair not only in The Queen
but also in another Morgan-scripted project, The Deal
, is adept at catching David Frost's blow-dried charm, as well as the determination beneath it. Frank Langella's physical performance as Nixon is superb, and he certainly can be a commanding actor, though veteran Nixon-watchers might find that he misses a certain depth of self-pity in the man. Both actors were retained from the original stage production, a rare thing in Hollywood--and probably Howard's best decision of the project. --Robert Horton