The buck stops here

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

More than 45 million people tuned in to watch fluffy British journalist David Frost elicit as close to an apology as we'd ever get from fallen President Richard Nixon - a thoroughly compelling television moment.

As detailed in Frost/Nixon, the engrossing Hollywood adaptation of Peter Morgan's successful stage play, the behind-the-scenes negotiations that went into Frost landing the interview - and the intense preparations undertaken by his team of reporters - were just as compelling.

Director Ron Howard unwisely uses a pointless and confusing faux documentary framework to help tell the story. The talking heads don't appear to have aged at all from their 1970s selves, yet they speak with the kind of insight that'd come from decades of distance.

But what makes the movie gripping is the match-up between Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, two great actors portraying men who each desperately need something from the other. Langella's Nixon is desperate for one last chance at gaining the sympathy of the American public, while Sheen's Frost is hoping for a shot at being taken seriously as a journalist. And each is working furiously to prevent his opponent from getting what he wants.

Langella's Nixon is perfect. It's not a mere imitation - he doesn't even look much like the man. Somehow, he manages to embody the Nixon we all remember while at the same time creating a character all his own. It's quite a thing to watch, and Langella will likely reap the benefits come awards season.


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Grade: B+