Frost/Nixon is a stage play by Peter Morgan, which is based on the series of televised interviews involving US President Richard Nixon and television presenter David Frost back in 1977. Ron Howard adapts from the stage version with Peter Morgan writing the screenplay, so there's this authenticity that comes along with it, and of course the principal titular characters of Frost and Nixon played by their stage incarnations Michael Sheen and Frank Langella.
This film though didn't manage to garner a theatrical release here, because distributors are probably of the opinion that nobody in Singapore would be interested to watch a dramatized piece of history involving an ex-President and a flamboyant presenter, but I suppose they had probably missed the point why this film was made, as Ron Howard had mentioned, bear some close resemblance to history repeating itself during the Bush Administration and the parallels of abuses of power. Even if not so, then Ron Howard should be pedigree enough since he had crafted an engaging and engrossing film based upon the successful Broadway run.
It's very much an examination into the two gladiators' minds, in their preparation and research before the big fight. And of course they don't go into it alone, each having assembled a team to prepare dossiers on the other, as well as the assembly of facts, figures and the pre-empting of what questions can be asked, and how best to deflect them or diffuse their intent and meaning. This we see expertly delivered by the Nixon camp led by Kevin Bacon's Chief of Staff Jack Brennan, in advice such as rambling to time-waste, much to the frustration of the Frost camp, with Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell and Rebecca Hall all providing top notch performances as real life characters.
Besides the obvious political jabs during the interviews, what's interesting is to note what goes on behind the making of a high risk show, without the confirmation of revenue streams since no networks want to touch it. You can imagine the immense pressure David Frost is under, and Michael Sheen performed admirably in this role, and frankly I think Sheen is fast becoming one of my favourite actors with his uncanny ability to embody each role that his plays with aplomb, with historical characters even being nothing impossible to tackle. His Frost has a very vulnerable side to it and Ron Howard dwells on this a lot, to bring us the challenges that he faced with the multiple roles he has to play, in addition to secure funding.
For Nixon, it's an opportunity to get himself back into popular spotlight and telling things from his perspective, which the general public is finding it difficult to accept, if at all. Ron Howard had to focus on the differences in personalities between the two men, and Frank Langella rings through a performance that is not a conscious impersonation, but close enough to be convinced it's Nixon on screen. That deep baritone voice also brings about a very stately persona, and like one of the characters quipped, brings about a certain sex appeal (!)
Frost/Nixon is a top notch film with top notch performances, with qualities that at times resemble a documentary especially with its interviews with the support characters about the entire episode. For interviewers wannabe, this is a film that you'll probably want to have a look at, in understanding the necessity in formulating a water-tight yet flexible strategy about wrestling and releasing control with the interviewee, the study of body languages, and the importance of the informalities and the back channels in communication which is crucial for the interviewer, or subject even, especially with how off the cuff remarks can just disarm the most prepared.
The Code 1 DVD by Universal Studios Home Entertainment comes presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, with audio available in either English, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1, not that you'll really need surround sound to enjoy this engrossing film. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French, and scene selection is available over 20 chapters. The DVD autoplays in letterbox format, the following trailers (4:08) for Milk, Changeling, Flash of Genius, and curiously two ads that deals with anti-smoking and Focus Features.
The Bonus Features comes with a really informative full length Feature Commentary with Director Ron Howard which begins with how the film production came about, and plenty of talk about the cast and characters they portray, and a lot of revelation on what went on during production rather than just describing verbatim what happens on screen, with focus at times on the authenticity of the sets, as well as working with a modest budget. There are some lapses of silence at times though so that Howard can discuss the scene that just passed.
There are 7 Deleted Scenes (22:26) included, presented in letterbox format, but you know from Ron Howard's commentary that there were a lot more variations of various scenes that were shot but never made it. They are More Details Prior to Resignation Speech (2:15) which shows the preparation before that speech and how Nixon is not too comfortable with giving speeches on television and his perspiration issue, the entire Resignation Speech (2:29), a slightly longer introduction of David Frost in Frost over Australia! (1:28), the Nixon Farewell (3:50) where we see him sweat in the upper lip, the Nixon Farewell Video Version (3:50) which provided the POV as if it was recorded, Frost/Bentley Care Phone that consists of the conversation between David and John prior to their canteen discussion, and an Extended 1st Cut - Research Montage (4:14) which I thought was a lot of fun.
The Making of Frost/Nixon (22:57) is the standard behind the scenes feature that has the cast and crew talk about their respective roles and experiences, and has plenty of clips where the character's real life counterparts appear, and is logically split into sections such as Casting, Costumes and Production Design which takes a blast from the past look into the 70s.
The Real Interview (7:29) unfortunately doesn't, and rightly so, contain all the interview sessions because that warranted another DVD on its own (and they are already available). This segment is but an extension to the Making of, and contains comments from the cast and crew interspersed with clips from the real interview to make comparisons with.
The Nixon Library (6:23) rounds off the Bonus Features with a tour of the location and a talk with the people who have worked with Nixon and now managing the institution, which is the place to learn just about everything about the man during his time at the Oval office. Like every presidential library created, each contains wonderful archives of information about their respective president, and for any serious information buffs, I suppose this is a shrine of information to head toward. Heck, even I'm interested if I have the opportunity to go visit.