Our generation are probably more familiar with David Frost for peering through celebrities’ keyholes, rather than for coming face to face with one of the more infamous US Presidents in recent history. Enter Frost/Nixon to help pave the road to enlightenment for us ignorant youths. This stage-to-screen adaptation — written by Peter Morgan, directed by Ron Howard — profiles the famous news interviews between the pair in the mid-70s and the behind the scenes struggle to get them made.
The film starts with representations of the media fallout of the Watergate scandal, footage of an outraged America interspliced with vox pops from the producer and researchers of the interviews — a method which gives the movie an immediate documentary-esque edge, helping to contextualise the feelings towards both Frost and Tricky Dick.
When we meet Frost we see he’s an international hit, with success in Britain and Australia and past success in the States, and he’s certain his decision to snag the most sought after news interview of the year will pay off, and his American celebrity status will return. Nixon on the other hand, away from the lip-sweat inducing glare of the American media, turns out to be a wry, witty character keen to elevate his Presidency above the series of genial after-dinner anecdotes it has been reduced to.
What results is an unlikely relationship between the two figures in a ruthless political-media world where both are reliant on the other to boost their public image, striving for the love of a nation — but it soon becomes clear that they cannot both win. Michael Sheen pulls off the charismatic playboy fish-out-of-water, but it is in the excellent Frank Langella as Nixon that we find the lumbering, lonely figure demonised by the press, merely looking to give his career the send-off it deserves. Underlying the excitement and guarded tension of the interviews is a hint of a human vulnerability uniting the adversaries in a world where, otherwise, there are no holds barred.