Starring: Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Matthew Macfadyen, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones
Director: Ron Howard
Summary: A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk show host David Frost and former President Richard Nixon
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Langella), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing
Ron Howard is basically the textbook definition of a competent director and so he continues the streak here, with a solid but mostly unmemorable film. The strongest aspect is Langella and how he and the movie portrays Nixon as he truly was: a smart, slick man who was extremely insecure about himself and how other people viewed him. Beyond that, it does a good job of making the story feel dynamic and compelling enough to keep your interest (the body language used during the interview segments is consistently effective in telling the viewer the respective strength of the participants), but nothing else stands out all that much. I like Michael Sheen in general, but here he really only has his million-dollar smile (the same one he used frequently as Tony Blair in The Queen) and isn’t given all that much else interesting to do, which is a shame.
The other comment I would make is that I never like it when they create pivotal plot points out of thin air in a movie like this. Dramatic license is fine, but if the movie is purporting to tell a true story, outright making up plot points that are so important that the movie doesn’t work on a narrative level without them (as is the case here), is in bad form. The last thing I would say is that it’s sort of surreal watching this in 2017 as the film in some ways feels almost quaint now: sadly, we are at a point now where I cannot conceive of any kind of political scandal really moving the needle again like Watergate did because we are that jaded, that partisan and so far inside our political bubbles that genuine outrage from the entire public is now a bar too high to be met. The overall portrayal of Richard Nixon makes the film a worthwhile watch and the presentation is solid, but it’s nothing I would go out of my way to recommend.