I love a film that depicts journalism taking on truth seeking and corrupt politicians. Perhaps in some corner of the multi-verse I’m a newspaperman, who knows…
So when Ron Howard dramatised the incredible confrontation between Richard M. Nixon (Frank Langella) and host David Frost (Micheal Sheen) I was there from the get go. Then the director stocked the film with a fabulous supporting cast including Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, and Kevin Bacon, let Hans Zimmer score it, and brought the clash to life in true dramatic fashion.
Shot in a documentary style, there are talking head segments with the actors in character giving points of reference and context to the events that are going on.
Nixon, the only president to resign from office due to the Watergate scandal was working on a book, and potential interviews on news programmes in an attempt to tell his version of the story, when along comes David Frost, viewed as a bit of a powder puff tv show host, Frost attempted to scrape together an exorbitant amount of money to buy Nixon’s time for a series of interviews.
Frost’s team included James Reston Jr (Rockwell) and Bob Zelnick (Platt) who worked as researchers and compiled a number of questions intended to be used by Frost as through a series of interviews Frost and Nixon would explore the presidency, Watergate and Vietnam.
In Nixon’s court is Jack Brennan (Bacon) who is intent on controlling the message and what is spoken about during the interviews.
But soon the cameras are rolling and Nixon and Frost, and Langella and Sheen go head to head, and it’s electric to watch. Both actors bring their characters to life brilliantly, and you can see that Nixon isn’t going to be as easy an interview as Frost wanted, but under John Birt’s (Matthew MacFadyen) guidance and coaching, Frost is ready to go tete a tete with the former president, and get him to admit his errors.
There’s a touch of the shakey cam, suggesting some hand held work to give the film a documentary style, augmented by the talking head sequences with the actors, which lends the film an authenticity and adds an excitement to, well, an interview.
Not exactly the most dramatic of events, but it can be if the right questions are asked, and the personalities are fiery and vibrant enough, and that’s what Frost/Nixon ends up being. Fiery, dramatic, engaging, and a look at journalism, reporting and arguably the first real president to be outed for his corruption, something that would set an ugly trend for that highest office in the land.
Ron Howard for me has always been a reliable director, and this film is damned enjoyable, and should hold a pride of place in his work.