The Screening Room Blog
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Is 'Frost/Nixon' the thinking man's 'Rocky?'


LONDON, England -- I've just watched the stunning "Frost/Nixon," a feature that boasts exceptional acting performances, with Frank Langella’s portrayal of disgraced U.S President Richard Nixon a standout.

Director Ron Howard should also be praised for his careful, considered depiction of the runup to one of the most watched TV moments in modern American politics.

The film starts in the aftermath of the 1973 Watergate scandal. Following Nixon’s resignation, television presenter David Frost attempts to raise sufficient capital to tempt the ex-president into a TV interview. Nixon duly agrees thinking, along with most of the world, that he is more than an intellectual match for his interrogator and will simply steamroll over him and reconstruct his badly tarnished public image.

Framed intimately in a behind-the-scenes setting, the audience are introduced to the characters of both Frost and Nixon and treated to a refreshingly human look at their contrasting egos and frailties.

Both men share similar desires for public rehabilitation and resurgence -- but before long it appears that only one of them will be able to achieve this. The result is an intellectual fight to the political death that has led some critics to describe the film as “the thinking man’s 'Rocky'."

Peter Morgan’s highly-praised play is just as impressive as a feature and Sheen and Langella are well supported with an array of acting talent that includes Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones and Matthew Macfadyen.

One of the film's most startling achievements is to create if not sympathy then at least a degree of empathy for a character of such historical notoriety as Nixon -- and it's credit to Howard, Morgan, the cast and the crew.

An early tip for Oscar recognition, "Frost/Nixon" appeals simply as a character study and maintains both intrigue and tension throughout, even to those who have no interest in politics. No mean feat for an event so widely covered at the time.

Frost/Nixon has its world premiere on October 15 as part of the London Film Festival Opening Gala.

From CNN's Simon Laub

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