A major metaphor in Frost/Nixon, the fairly straightforward retelling of the 1977 television interviews between David Frost and ex-president Richard Nixon, is the sport of boxing. No punches are thrown. The sport isn't really discussed. But under the glare of the TV cameras, these two men are not merely asking and answering questions, they are juking and jabbing. They evade. They attack. They manipulate. They break from their duel to retreat to their corners for analysis and the clearing of sweat from their handlers. Strategy and mental games are everything for this champion and his challenger.
And like a highly contested bout, the drama simmers with emotion, excitement, and tension. But unlike a boxing matchor the average Hollywood filmFrost/Nixon is able to create this intense drama with very little action. Instead, director Ron Howard uses play-like scenes of two men sitting in chairs to put you on the edge of yours. Somehow, he makes a historical retelling of an interview into fascinating, electric, and dynamic cinema. In fact, the movie's signature powerful moment is a close-up of one man's face. It's a simple shot, but it is explosive.
One reason it feels like a play is it's an adaptation of the successful play of the same name that debuted in London in 2006 and quickly moved to Broadway the next spring. The play was nominated for dozens of theatre honors including three Tony Awards and three separate Best Actor wins for Frank Langella as Nixon. The film captures that winning formula by keeping the play's key actors (Langella as Nixon, Michael Sheen as Frost) and giving screenwriting duties to the original playwright Peter Morgan. But this is not just a filmed play. Instead, Howard brings the story alive ...1