Director    Ron Howard
Starring    Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Toby Jones
Release    5 DEC (US) 23 JAN (UK)    Certificate 15
5 stars


26th January 2009

David Frost. Many of us probably know him as that bloke who used to poke his nose through keyholes, but back in the '70s, Frost was kind of a big deal - a media playboy who was making a name for himself on the box both in London and Australia.

However, after his New York chat show was cancelled, Frost was desperate to save his career. So, in the summer of '77 and with the help of his wealthy friends, Frost set up a series of interviews with disgraced former President Richard M. Nixon in a valiant attempt to squeeze out a confession for the Watergate scandal - something the world had been waiting for since Nixon's resignation from office in 1974. Despite being seen as a laughing stock (we see him reporting on stolen sausages as Nixon leaves office) and his lack of studio backers, Frost managed to cough up $2m cash and the rest, if I may dust off an old chestnut, is history.

Frost/Nixon is easily comparable to the best boxing movies - Frost is the likeable underdog while Nixon is the punchy political heavyweight. We watch as they play mind games with one another prior to the interviews: Nixon inquires if his opponent if he had a pleasant evening but follows it with the question "Did you do any fornicating?" seconds before filming. The 'fight' scenes are a massive clash of personalities; David Frost, built for TV, versus the perspiring President.

The mock-doc style of the film adds a healthy sense of realism. At various points, we cut away to talking heads of the characters as they recall the legendary interviews, enabling us to see hear from both parties retroactively. The Nixon camp, represented by bodyguard Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) and agent Swifty Lazar (Toby Jones), tell us how they managed to squeeze Frost for six hundred grand. Conversely, representing Team Frost are researcher James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell), producer John Birt (Macfadyen) and editor Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt). Both camps fight their corner proudly.

Sheen and Langella, reprising their theatrical roles, embody their subjects brilliantly. Sheen, the chameleon of British film, recreates a pitch-perfect version of David Frost - the mannerisms, the arrogance and even the trademark mumble are all captured effortlessly. Despite Frost's ruthless streak, he's still a personable figure and you can't help but admire his charm, positivity and never-say-die attitude. Langella portrays Nixon as a proud, rumbling, intimidating giant of a man who genuinely believes that being in Office gives him the right to break the law. At the same time, Langella's Nixon is a broken man, searching for some sort of redemption from the American people.

Flanked by a fantastic supporting cast, Ron Howard has successfully managed to turn Peter Morgan's simplistic stage play into a thrilling 'no holds barred' collision of egos that's laced with tension, wit and intense drama. Much like Good Night, And Good Luck, Frost/Nixon is a celebration of investigative journalism and the awesome power wielded by the media - expect Oscars by the barrelful.

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