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FROST/NIXON (director: Ron Howard; screenwriter: Peter Morgan/based on the play by Peter Morgan; cinematographer: Salvatore Totino; editors: Mike Hill/Dan Hanley; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: Michael Sheen (David Frost), Frank Langella (Richard Nixon), Kevin Bacon (Jack Brennan), Sam Rockwell (James Reston, Jr.), Matthew Macfadyen (John Birt), Oliver Platt (Bob Zelnick), Rebecca Hall (Caroline Cushing), Toby Jones (Swifty Lazar), Patty McCormack (Pat Nixon), Kate Jennings Grant (Diane Sawyer), Andy Milder (Frank Gannon), Jenn Gotzon (Tricia Nixon), Eve Curtis (Sue Mengers); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ron Howard/Brian Grazer/Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner; Universal Pictures; 2008)
“Langella makes an impressive Nixon despite a lack of physical resemblance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”/”The Da Vinci Code”/”Apollo 13”) efficiently directs this no-nonsense forthright historical reenactment drama. Frost/Nixon is based on the Broadway play by Peter Morgan that explores David Frost’s 1977 series of TV interviews with former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella), the only president forced to resign from office. Lightweight and glib Brit TV personality and talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen), working on Australian TV at the time, even though supposedly in over his head shrewdly gets Nixon in the final episode to finally admit to a cover-up of the Watergate break-in by his staffers of the Democratic National Headquarters. It turns out to be the only time Nixon fessed up to his part in the crime since he was given a full-pardon by incoming President Ford and never had to stand trial. This “no holds barred” interview in Los Angeles, with certain ground rules such as only 25% of the questions were to be on Watergate, gave Frost’s career a boost even beyond his wildest dreams.

Each did the interview for a different reason. Frost because he got instant media credibility and public recognition due to the show’s high-ratings, even though he was criticized for checkbook journalism, while Nixon saw it as both a chance to get a big paycheck (supposedly he needed the money) and an opportunity to repair his tarnished image in public with an interviewer he thought capable of only asking softball questions

The astute script by Morgan covers in minute detail and with great subtlety how Tricky Dick chose to be interviewed by Frost rather than the more legit media types like Mike Wallace, and it also covers Nixon as he delivers his resignation speech in August 1974, without an apology.

Though it offers nothing new, it does its job in bringing recent history to life through terrific acting by the leads and the use of interesting archival footage in letting the viewer once again be an eyewitness to history in this documentary-like format. Recreating the role for which he won a Tony Award, Langella makes an impressive Nixon despite a lack of physical resemblance.REVIEWED ON 11/26/2008 GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”