In 1977, British talk show host, David Frost conducted a series of interviews with disgraced former President Richard Nixon on television, and this movie, which is an adaptation of a stage play, seeks to go further than the surface, talking about the events that led to these interviews and more importantly the motivations behind both men in doing them- Frost sees it as a way to get back some former notoriety, while Nixon looks at it as a way of getting exoneration to an extent and being able to get yet another place in the sun politically. It’s a great examination of a historical side story, as well as a test of wills of two men who wanted so badly to fit in.
And it’s one hell of a good movie. This latest film from director Ron Howard is at least for me, my favorite of his since he did Ransom (my own personal favorites of Howard’s movies are Ransom, The Paper and of course, Apollo 13 which I can watch again and again). It’s an extremely well-paced work that lays the story out in chronological order, peppered with reflections from the side players (well, the actors playing the side players) about the event, done in an almost documentary style fashion, giving it much greater sense of event than how it actually played out, at least from my recollection of the time.
I can’t say enough about how well written this movie is, and it damn well should be considering that this is about an interview event, so it needs to capture you right from the start and fortunately it does.
Of course, much has been said about the performances of both of the leads, Michael Sheen as David Frost and Frank Langella as Richard Nixon, and the praise is well deserved. Sheen’s got a little more of a twinkle in his eye than the real Frost does and Langella is a much more physically imposing presence than the real Nixon was, but still it’s tremendously good work from both men, and it’s especially proven in one scene before the final interview takes place about a phone call between Nixon and Frost, that’s the best scene in the movie loaded with great scenes, and it just makes you wonder did this really happen this way? And it has some great support work from Oliver Platt, Matthew Macfadyen and most especially Sam Rockwell and Kevin Bacon who are just about as standout as the leads themselves.
The best thing this movie does though is it makes you want to find out more about the time or see the key moments of the real interviews again, and that’s just what a movie about a historical event should do. This is one of those that I’m looking forward to seeing again when it comes out on DVD and hopefully there’ll be a nice package made around it when it does hit. Highly, highly recommended and easily one of the best of 2008.