“Frost/Nixon” deftly depicts “the trial that Nixon never had” in its adaptation of the original London play based on the series of post-Watergate interviews between British TV personality David Frost (Michael Sheen) and Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). While it focuses on the interviews that forced Nixon to tacitly admit his part in the Watergate scandal, the tragic consequences of his foreign policies, and his paranoia over his critics, it is mostly about the battle of wills between two men seeking vindication and respect from both peers and public.
In a typical battle-of-wills scenarios, it is the party that declares victory even before the war has started that is usually left saying he was wrong. What would have been a chance to exonerate himself becomes the event that nails Nixon to the cross. It is difficult to pin down a sly opponent and one that has a convoluted sense of grandiosity, but as most consultants on negotiation say, it is never advisable to negotiate or take the battle to the opponent’s turf. In this, Frost has the upper hand, as he knows more than anybody the power of television while his team knows more than he does that great interviews depend upon great research.
Showing a close-up of the former US president as Frost quotes his words from a recorded phone conversation with one of this aides, the unraveling that led to admission of guilt and misguided definition of power are caught on camera. With nothing but his facial expression, it is as if Frank Langella is portraying the stages of death in one of the best 8 seconds in recent film history. The actor is surely one of the strongest contenders for next year’s Oscars, and the film for the best picture award.
Skip the annual Metro Manila Film Fest drivel and save your bucks for “Frost/Nixon.” But if there’s a good chance it will not be shown until after the Oscars, then make room for a bit of creativity. It’s worth the two hours of your life that you cannot get back.
Here is a part of the original interviews: