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For three years after being forced from office as President of the United States of America, Nixon remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans. Likewise, Frost's team harbored doubts about their boss' ability to hold his own. But as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits resulted. Would Nixon evade questions of his role in one of the nation's greatest disgraces? Or would Frost confound critics and bravely demand accountability from the man who'd built a career out of stonewalling? Over the course of their encounter, each man would reveal his own insecurities, ego and reserves of dignity -- ultimately setting aside posturing in a stunning display of unvarnished truth.
For more about Frost/Nixon and the Frost/Nixon Blu-ray release, see Frost/Nixon Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on April 21, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, Matthew Macfadyen
Director: Ron Howard
» See full cast & crew
Frost/Nixon Blu-ray Review
Opie does politics.
Reviewed by Ben Williams, April 21, 2009
As one of this year's Oscar nominees for best picture, Frost/Nixon is a strange and compelling film. It's represents something of a departure for Director Ron Howard, a filmmaker who has made a name for himself through films with much broader appeal and a reliance on big name actors and larger than life premises. Frost/Nixon finds Mr. Howard exploring more subtle territory and focusing on his actors performances. It's a unique experience, and one that is sure to enthrall students of history and presidential politics.
In 1977, down on his luck television journalist David Frost (Michael Sheen) stumbled upon a glorious opportunity. Frost had recently suffered a series of career setbacks and had found himself relegated to menial roles hosting second tier talk shows on British television. He wasn't proud of his fate, but was resigned to improving his station. So, when the opportunity to interview scandalized former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) presented itself, Frost sprung into action. He'd have to raise a considerable amount of money for the interview; Nixon's people demanded $600,000 for the privilege. Most serious television news organizations weren't interested in the interview; they considered paid interviews to be below their standards. But when Frost miraculously raised the money and sat down for 12 days of in-depth interviews, the world was treated to the first serious discussion from the former president on the scandals and controversies that had plagued his administration. Frost was an instant star, Nixon showed his more vulnerable side and the rest, as they say, is history. Frost/Nixon tells this tale.
Frank Langella would seem like an odd choice for the role of Richard Nixon; the two bear very little resemblance and Langella has always exhibited a more towering presence on screen than the hunched and humbled president. Clearly, my fears were completely unfounded regarding this casting, as Langella so encompasses and embodies the role, that any dissimilarity in the two men's appearances disappear completely in the wake of Langella's powerful and moving performance. It's an amazing thing to see someone disappear so completely into a role, but Langella simply IS Richard Nixon in this film. Michael Sheen, on the other hand, has an easier time filling the shoes of David Frost. Most aren't as intimately familiar with Frost's mannerisms as the world is with Nixon's oft parodied and referenced traits. Regardless, Sheen is incredibly effective in the role, providing a decidedly neutral and stoic presence in the film, often in stark contrast to the bloodthirsty attitudes of his producers. These folks want to skewer Nixon on international television.
The complexities of Richard Nixon's personality and character are on full display in Frost/Nixon. It would have been an easy task to simply portray the controversial president as a liar and a crook, an opinion that many audience members would have happily accepted. Instead, the filmmakers have gone to great lengths to present a new Richard Nixon; one who isn't just the caricature that popular forms of entertainment have made him out to be for the past 30+ years, but a real person who is often extremely likable and capable of remorse. The fact that this interview actually exists in reality definitely explains most of this, but the scenes involving Nixon when the cameras are off, often are the most telling.
This far along in history and after the events that lead to Nixon's resignation, a single film like Frost/Nixon isn't going to change the historical context of the Nixon administration or lessen the crimes that the president committed. Like the stage play from which it is based, Frost/Nixon simply exists to show that there are sometimes two sides to every public persona, and that on occasion, there's more to a person than meets the eye. Frost/Nixon is highly recommended.
Frost/Nixon Blu-ray, Video Quality
Bathed in period details and filmed in a style reminiscent of the films of the late seventies, Frost/Nixon arrives on Blu-ray in a form that accurately recreates the film's theatrical exhibition. Universal has, unsurprisingly, done the consistent thing and delivered the film via a relatively high bitrate VC-1 encode. The results are pleasing and entirely consistent to the intentions of Ron Howard and cinematographer Salvatore Totino.
Much of the actual interview featured in Frost/Nixon is shrouded in deep black shadowy hues. As such, this Blu-ray encode does a fine job of presenting satisfyingly deep black levels and robust contrast. I was pleased with the level of detail on display as well; Nixon's craggy face bore the signs of years of doubt and insecurity, while Frost's youthful appearance stood as a stark contrast. Colors are vibrant and deeply saturated throughout the presentation. As one would hope, compression issues and digital artifacts aren't ever an issue. Frost/Nixon isn't exactly the kind of picture that was destined to challenge Blade Runner in the impressiveness department, but it sure looks good! Recommended!
Frost/Nixon Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Here's an odd proposition: take a movie about a television interview from the 1970s, make the film a series of long and drawn out conversations and exchanges, score the film with a minimalist series of compositional sketches and then deliver it on Blu-ray in crystalline 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Now, I'm not saying that lossless audio is overkill; it never is and always delivers a soundtrack that is superior to its lossy counterpart. However, there's just not much more than 122 minutes worth of in-depth and perfectly captured conversation presented on this Blu-ray disc.
In spite of the lack of any kind of traditional action-themed sound design, Frost/Nixon succeeds in being a perfectly realized audio experience. The film's abundance of dialogue is presented as flawlessly as possible; every grumble and terse statement from Nixon is rendered with impeccable aural resolution. The film's score is rooted in the front soundstage with the occasional flourish finding its way into the surround channels. Dialogue moves around the front soundstage nicely and is never rooted primarily in the center channel. What more could one really ask for? Recommended!
Frost/Nixon Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
- Feature-length audio commentary with Director Ron Howard
- U Control - Picture-In-Picture (BD Exclusive)
- U Control - The Nixon Chronicles (BD Exclusive)
- "Discovering Secrets: The People and Places Behind the Story" (BD Exclusive)
- Deleted Scenes
- "The Making of Frost/Nixon"
- The Real Interview
- The Nixon Library
- BD Live - Download Center (BD Exclusive)
The big question raised regarding the special features included with this Blu-ray release of Frost/Nixon is, why not include the actual Frost / Nixon interview? It would be a natural item to include, but I can only assume it wasn't possible due to rights issues. Regardless, Universal has included a few short clips of scenes from the actual interview that match up nicely with the content covered in the film. Ron Howard contributes an outstanding commentary track that held my attention and was informative enough to actually have me wanting to give it a second listen. Good stuff! What's left is a few short featurettes, a short feature on the Nixon Library and a light making-of documentary.
Frost/Nixon Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Frost/Nixon is a deceptively engaging film that blends outstanding performances with a keen insight into historical precedent. What seemed like fodder for a boring and one- note film has been transformed into a riveting dramatic narrative that never fails to entertain. Universal brings Frost/Nixon to Blu-ray sporting an outstanding video transfer and audio that never fails to deliver. While I felt that the film's included supplementary features could have been a bit more in-depth, the film is the main attraction here. Frost/Nixon is highly recommended!
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