Frost/Nixon – Fiction and Reality

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The break-in at the Watergate Hotel remains one of the more discussed events in American political history. It resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon, due to the resulting cover-up. After his resignation, Nixon wanted to rehabilitate his image. David Frost wanted to score the interview of a lifetime. Both of these interests meshed into one of the most popular news programs in history, the Frost / Nixon interviews, and in a rare move both the film based on those events and the actual interviews themselves have been released onto DVD as the Complete Frost/Nixon Interviews. Its not the complete 28 hours of footage shot, of course, just the specials that would air on television of the edited footage.

Originally a stage play, Frost/Nixon brought the Tony award winning actors behind it (Michael Sheen and Frank Langella) onto the big screen with a rather impressive cast behind them to recreate the events of the time into one of the best films of 2008.

Frost/Nixon was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards, winning none, but remains a hallmark of Ron Howards career. Its also an amazing film, as its the story of two men looking for redemption. In the end we get it for both, as Frost would go on to interview every President of the United States and Nixon would end up as an elder statesman. It was a marked success against all odds, but its best understood as a story of two men at similar points in their lives.

For Frost (Sheen), its a chance at expanding his career. Frost had been markedly popular as a talk show host but inside every talk show host seems to be a desire for serious, bonafide credentials in the media world. Frost wanted his and no one thought he could pull it off.

For Nixon (Langella), it was a chance to rehabilitate his image. Forced from office, and controversially pardoned by Gerald Ford shortly thereafter, Nixon had been liberal Americas boogeyman for long enough that he was seen as a pariah. He wanted to exonerate himself and have the American people feel the same way.

Its an edge-of-the-seat thriller and a real cat-and-mouse game between two men, but the best comparison cinematically for the film would be Rocky. Its familiar territory for Howard, whose Cinderella Man is in the same league, but he develops the film in the same manner. Frost struggles to get everything started, at a bit of a career crossroads, and the film is his struggle to get everything together in the face of overwhelming odds. This is his story, not Nixons, but we get enough of Nixon to make him a worthy adversary.

Normally this would be interesting enough to merit consideration of research for one interested in the subject, but we get the interviews themselves released onto DVD. It gives a whole other level of interest, as it provides a context for everything in the film that it cant provide on its own.

For the most part Ron Howard absolutely nails the interviews themselves, taking most of the words that Nixon and Frost said and then making them into the films dialogue. While thats more of the success of the play than anything else, most of which was adapted for the film, it gives the film a credibility that most films based on true events dont have.

The film is presented in a Dolby Digital surround sound with a widescreen format and is remarkable. This is a film that lends itself to the visual spectrum than the audio one, as its mainly dialogue, but it captures the film well. The transfer itself is great, using any good system as a great experience.

The interviews are presented in their original full screen format. The video isnt very good, as the transfer from the original broadcast has been cleaned up but still shows the signs of aging film from this era shows the better television you have; this isnt the best of pictures and it gets grainy and muggy for portions of it. The audio has been cleaned up, as its in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format and comes through quite cleanly and clearly. This is pure dialogue, with some music from the introduction pieces,

The Frost/Nixon DVD has the usual sorts of extras one would expect. Deleted Scenes, a “Making of” featurette, footage from the actual interviews compared against what was made in the film and a quick tour of the Nixon library as well.

The Interviews have no extras.

For history junkies and political aficionados alike, Watergate remains one of the more fascinating events in American political history and is studied extensively today. With the release of the fictionalized version of the aftermath, as well as the actual interviews themselves, it makes for fascinating viewing.

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