Writer: Peter Morgan (based on his play)
Director: Ron Howard
Budget: $35 million (estimated)
Gross: $873 836 (as of December 14th 2008)
you might be thinking how could a movie about an interview be that interesting. well, for both men involved in the Frost/Nixon interview, pretty much everything was riding on it. frost was trying to prove he was more then just a comedy host and he sunk loads of his own money into getting this done. and for nixon he was trying to rehabilitate his tattered reputation only a few years after having to retire the presidency in disgrace over watergate. ron howard shows us the two men, shows us what is at stake and builds the tension throughout. in its own way, the film is kind of a thriller.
the film is done partly in a faux-documentary style and partly in regular narrative. meaning the story plays out with short documentary-style interviews from the supporting characters edited in throughout. when the film first started like this i had my doubts that it would work (especially since the supporting character interviews are with actors playing the parts and not the actual participants - which i think could have been interesting), but it really does work. the talking heads provide lots of exposition and setting of the time and place that might have felt forced or awkward had they had to do it through character dialogue or some such way.
i felt at times that Frost/Nixon didn't even feel like a movie. that documentary style, combined with just how good it was and how howard was able to raise the tension of the interview to such a level that when it came down to the moments of just the two men siting in chairs a few feet apart 'dueling' each other i was completely drawn in. there were literally a couple times when for a moment i would be in a zone where i felt like i was watching the actual frost-nixon interviews (i really want to watch them now). after a few seconds i would snap back to reality.
from the supporting cast to michael sheen (david frost) and frank langella (richard nixon) the acting is great. the two leads are the same actors that played the characters on the stage and i wondered if they would translate to film, since theater acting and film acting are very different. but, they have both done lots of movie work and it obviously was no problem given how good they were.
now, there has been a little controversy over the historical accuracy of some aspects of the film and, to be honest, that is where a history/politics nerd like myself has to take a few points off. there is one very important scene that i was pretty sure was a piece of fiction, and i was right, that still has me a little bothered. the scene involves a late night phone call between nixon and frost. now, while the scene is important in getting to the heart of nixons paranoia and feelings of persecution that he had always had, it also leads to a major dramatic turning point that leads to frost getting nixon to 'confess' in the interview, and this is the problem. it is more then just evolving the characters, but it is 'the moment' when things turned, and in reality it never happened...
also, the 'confession' that frost gets from nixon didn't happen either in the way it did in the movie. this bugs me because we have the actual interviews on tape. i mean, there is a full transcript and video of the interviews, so to get that dialogue wrong, or to switch it up to create a moment that didn't happen, really irks me. there were of course some other artistic licenses taken - which is fine, but those two are the ones that bother me.
Now, maybe those creative licenses had to be taken to make a story about an interview interesting to the general public. and, i will say that i really liked the movie and, as i stated above, was completely engaged throughout. but thinking about it post-viewing in the context of a film and of historical accuracy does drop it a few places on my list of 'best films of the year' - although it will still definitely make it onto said list and is well worth seeing. - just understand the film is more concerned with the grand themes of the two men fighting for their reputations rather then being a record of history.