Review: Frost/Nixon

Re-live Nixon’s demolition? With pleasure


I carried out an (admittedly un-scientific) straw poll and found that many people around 30 appear unfamiliar with Sir David Frost, whose television heyday was some three decades ago.

Sensibly, screenwriter Peter Morgan’s adaptation of his own successful stage play takes time to (re)introduce movie audiences to Frost, who is described as “a man of no political convictions whatsoever” but one who “understood TV”.

Director Ron Howard does justice to Morgan’s script, serving up a bravura dramatisation of the televised Frost/Richard Nixon interviews which in 1977 won the largest news programme audience in American TV history.

We spend time with Frost — superbly played by Michael Sheen, whose hedonism, self-admiration and gleaming false smile are as effective as the real thing — as he hustles for the money he needs to pay Nixon for the interviews.

But the core of the drama remains his extraordinary verbal duel with the disgraced ex-President, who resigned from office over Watergate.

Morgan’s brilliant screenplay is mordantly funny and easy to believe, thanks to extraordinary performances by both duellists who created the roles on stage. Frost’s ultimate demolition of Frank Langella’s initially confident Nixon emerges as well deserved and tragic.

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