[There are spoilers of sorts within this review]
The most compelling character in Frost/Nixon is none other than Richard M Nixon himself. With the most to hide and the most to tell, Frank Langella is a convincing Nixon. His mannerisms, deep throaty voice and cocksure attitude embody the spirit of the man.
The story follows British talk show host, David Frost, played by Michael Sheen and his team of researchers (Matthew Macfadyen, Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt) as they prepare a list of “no holds barred” questions to ask Nixon in an exclusive series of interviews in March/April of 1977. This type of movie is very similar to The Queen, which also starred Sheen, where a series of facts is known and the ‘behind the scenes’ is speculated upon. The characters represent real persons and the actors do their best to represent their mannerisms and personalities.
While the story of Frost - securing the interview, wooing the impressive looking Rebecca Hall, pleading with network execs - drives the story forward, it is Nixon himself that captures our attention. It is well known that Nixon was forced to resign from office because of illegal activities of which he participated in and covered up (Watergate the headline issue), he escaped trial because of a full pardon from successor Gerald Ford. This interview became his public trial.
Nixon agrees to the interview in the hope it will provide him with an intellectual challenge. Having a purpose in life, he announces, is how to stay young. In the first of the interviews it is Nixon who retains the upper hand as Frost allows Nixon to restore his battered image as a strong and bold leader.
It is make or break for Frost also as each of his television shows is cancelled by the networks around the world and he personally finances the production of this interview.
On the question of Watergate however, and his own admission of guilt and remorse, Nixon seeks an opportunity to come clean and own up to his part in it. He has betrayed his own “standard of excellence” he has always held for himself and seeks to be rid, once and for all, of the constant calls by the media for an admission.
An excellent insight into the ending of this film has been written by Jim Schembri from The Age, which can be accessed here.
Kevin Bacon plays the president’s aide, and displays the largest man crush in recent movie history.
This film is highly recommended, with Langella deserving of a Best Actor nomination.