Editors' pick

Frost/Nixon

Frost/Nixon movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Drama
Ron Howard directs this film version of the play about a series of interviews between talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen) and former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella).
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones
Director: Ron Howard
Running time: 2:02
'

Editorial Review

Neither the title nor the subject matter prepares you for the pure fun of "Frost/Nixon." Ron Howard's movie is based on Peter Morgan's play, which was based on the 1977 television interviews between British journalist David Frost and former president Richard Nixon. You expect something dry, historical and probably contrived. But you get a delicious contest of wits, brilliant acting and a surprisingly gripping narrative -- no less dramatic even though the results are a foregone conclusion.

Frost and Nixon desperately needed each other when they sat for a series of in-depth interviews three years after Nixon's resignation. Frost was deemed a lightweight and bet his future career on a blockbuster television special. Nixon wanted rehabilitation and gambled that Frost would lob him softballs.

As Nixon, Frank Langella is perfection. The character is generated from the inside out, not predicated on surface imitation or caricature. Langella's characterization is based on a deeply meditated sense of the man, whose craving for power, love and legacy leads to a strange mix of malice and charm.

Frost is portrayed by Michael Sheen as a shallow playboy with a profound hollowness in his ambitious soul.

The writing is so good, the acting so powerful, that the film goes well beyond the courtroom drama into the territory of the classic history play.

It isn't Shakespeare, but it is drama at a level one doesn't often get in movies.

"Frost/Nixon" covers a lot of ground, from the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia to the minutiae of Watergate. It's not a cradle-to-grave portrayal, but hidden in plain sight is an important primer (for a new generation) on all things Nixon. We may debate yet about his service to the country. But he has clearly become an essential figure for a deeper kind of service, rattling about in his self-made chains in the depths of the political imagination.

-- Philip Kennicott (Dec. 12, 2008)

Contains strong language.