, Port Arthur, Texas


January 27, 2009

David and Goliath in the wake of Watergate



Universal Pictures

Directed by Ron Howard

Starring Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell and Rebecca Hall

Rated R


3 Stars        


  I was just a kid when David Frost famously interviewed former-President Richard Nixon on national TV, and because I was only interested at the time in shows that featured the Six Million Dollar Man and Charlie’s Angels, I failed to notice the public eruption that came in the wake of Nixon finally admitting some culpability in the Watergate scandal. 

Accordingly, Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon” is a chance for me to relive that particular piece of missed political history. Michael Sheen plays David Frost, a seemingly vacuous TV host who gets it into his head that a multi-night interview with disgraced President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) would make for cracker-jack television. Nixon and his aides agree to the sit downs, thinking that their tested man of politics wouldn’t have any trouble staving off this media lightweight.

They were wrong.

Now I’m the first to admit that this story about a TV interview sounds incredibly boring, after all, there’s only so much fire that can be wrung out of a film when the highlight is a scene where two men sit around and talk. So credit filmmaker Ron Howard for turning this seemingly dull story into a gripping David and Goliath drama. More credit to goes the main actors for imbuing the film with the dramatic heft that comes when both of the main characters see the interviews as a chance for public redemption. As is pointed out in the film, only one of the men will get what they want. One will be the winner; the other will lose.

There have been some claims of historical inaccuracies, which I am unqualified to judge. I will point out that movies should never be taken as a substitute for history. Even the most serious historical dramas are forced to make decisions about content and characters during the process of forming the film’s narrative structure. The facts may be skewed here, but the bottom line for me is that “Frost/Nixon” ended up as an engaging drama. The history lesson is a nice bonus, but it’s the art and the acting that give the film its power and resonance.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and weekly on KFDM-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at

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