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Frost/Nixon is a screen adaption of the stage play by Peter Morgan in which interviewer David Frost (Michael Sheen, with a performance too reminiscent of his portrayal of Blair) confronts the retired and disgraced President Richard Nixon (an imposing, dark depiction from Frank Langella). In four 90-minute interviews the former-President is finally confronted about the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation from the White House.
A recurring motif in the film is the tissue that Nixon keeps concealed in his palm, and uses to wipe the sweat from his face when he is confronted with a difficult question. It is an overt reference to the Presidential debate between himself and Senator Kennedy in 1960. Nixon claimed a gentleman’s agreement was reached that neither would wear make up which he alone honoured. He won the contest for those listening on the radio, but on the box he appeared heavy browed, sweaty, and incomparable to the easy, fresh-faced, film-star looks of his opponent. It is remembered as the turning point in the election campaign.
Directed by Ron Howard, it is well-casted and fluently shot with a gleamed surface of period stylings. As the interviews start, the boxing match Frost’s aides continually compare it to almost convince and, on first impressions, this is very much a film about Nixon being forced to come to terms with Watergate.
However, the final scenes reveal the film’s true intentions. The impact of Watergate on the American conscience, the gap between Nixon the man and Nixon the disgraced President, even the interview itself merely strive to establish a space in which a wider theme can communicate itself. Frost/Nixon is not really about Frost or Nixon, but about the power of the camera and its ever-increasing hold over the political world.