A landmark in television journalism, the series of interviews between Britain’s David Frost and disgraced U. S. president Richard Nixon proved to be an
arduous process for both men. Ron Howard’s film, Frost/Nixon, an adaptation of the play by Peter Morgan, gives us a fascinating look at what
both men went through before the cameras rolled, providing us with insight into
their motivations. Each of them were in exile, hoping to return to the
Relegated to hosting a talk show in Australia, Frost (Michael Sheen) hopes to gain a sense of respectability in the journalistic community when he proposes the idea of a series of interviews with Nixon (Frank Langella). Once his financial demands are met, the former president willingly agrees in hope that he’ll be able to repair his tattered image and resurrect his political career. Frost soon finds he’s in over his head, as Nixon views this as a battle of wills and domineers the interviews with rambling anecdotes instead of answering the more probing questions posed to him.
Morgan’s script is pointed in its examination of these men, portraying them both as desperate opportunists who want to profit from this venture with little regard for the other. However, as time passes, they both come to recognize the flaws in one another, which grows into a mutual sense of respect and a degree of sympathy. Sheen does a marvelous job showing Frost’s growth as a journalist as well as his desperation when the enterprise nearly jumps the tracks.
However, Langella takes the cake here, giving us this contradictory man in all of his shadings. Arrogant, angry and finally humbled, the actor makes us sympathize with Nixon, who we come to realize was a simple, insecure man who let the power he craved cloud his better judgment.
In the end, Frost/Nixon proves to be not only a fascinating look at history but also a pointed and poignant warning about the dangers of hubris and its devastating effects.