Yesterday, this column reviewed "A Beautiful Mind," which is based on a true story and is directed by former child actor Ron Howard. Howard is a master of dramatic, nonfiction filmmaking. "A Beautiful Mind" offers a telling glimpse into the elite academic world. "Frost/Nixon," which came out in 2008, takes the viewers into the world of politics and journalism.
"Frost/Nixon" is set in the 1970s. In it, an unhappy and unrepentant Richard Nixon (played by Frank Langella) has resigned from being president of the United States because the Watergate scandal investigations have indicated that he misrepresented his understandings about the illegal behavior of key members of his leadership team. The mood of the country is dour, with many Americans feeling that President Ford should not have officially pardoned him, at least not without more scrutiny of his role. Ambitious young English television host David Frost (played by Michael Sheen) comes up with the idea to probe the former president in a series of T.V. interviews. His proposal is turned down by all of the major American networks, so he and his team decide to produce the interviews themselves. To get Nixon's cooperation, they have to pay him and that further complicates the deal and adds significant financial pressure on Frost. Normally a less confrontational interviewer, Frost lets the well-prepared Nixon out-maneuver him in the early interviews. Before the final interview on Watergate, Frost immerses himself on the topic and becomes a well-versed authority.
"Frost/Nixon" has an amazing performance by Frank Langella, who embodies all of the traits that characterized Nixon; his confidence, intelligence, alcohol dependence and coarseness. Michael Sheen is equally impressive, showing that Frost is slow to understand the enormity of his commitment.
The screenplay is effective. During the interviews, Frost tries to ask hard questions, yet Nixon usually does a good job answering them. These scenes are very exciting.
"Frost/Nixon" is a fascinating film and a provocative glimpse into an important historical era.