Frost/Nixon, Blu-ray (2008)
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall
Director: Ron Howard
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment 61106260 [Release date: April 21, 09]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish or French DTS 5.1, English DD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Commentary track by Ron Howard, “The Making of Frost/Nixon,” “The Real Interview,” “The Nixon Library,” Deleted scenes, U-Control & BD Live: The Nixon Chronicles, Discovering Secrets, Picture In Picture
Length: 2 hours 3 minutes
Ron Howard complains in the extras of having only a fraction of the budget he had for such past films as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code. Yet he transferred the successful stage play of Frost/Nixon to the screen with such skill that it was nominated for five Academy Awards. He frequently encouraged improvised dialog by his top actors and his opening up of some of the elements of the stage presentation gives more depth and back-story to the characters. Although Langella looks nothing like Nixon, he has the voice and body language down pat and delivers a compelling portrayal.
Three years after Nixon was forced from office cheeky British TV host David Frost had the audacity to request a TV interview with him. The promise of getting $600,000 out of the deal convinced Nixon and his agent “Swifty” to agree, and Frost assembled a trio of political researchers to help him in preparing for the several days of interviewing. Frost’s associates had strong misgivings about whether their boss would be able to get any apology or admitted wrongdoings out of Nixon, and things started badly, with the ex-president exhibiting his skills at stonewalling. There were clearly doubts in the minds of both men during the interviews – each had his own insecurities. Frost also had to struggle with the financing of the interview, which none of the networks would support. Frost was out of his league in many ways, yet some clever details from one of his researchers help him to find the chink in Nixon’s armor and bring him down with a public apology, which none of the more powerful authorities had been able to achieve. The film is not without its humor – some of Nixon’s comments and concerns are hilarious. More time is spent on the rest of Frost’s busy celebrity life, including his girlfriend, and even Pat Nixon has a brief appearance, which didn’t occur in the stage play.
Having just seen a stage production of the play, the comparison between the two was fascinating. Both are first rate. The extras are all very interesting, but I was ready to view more of the original TV interview – there was only a very short clip. One of the most amazing statements from earlier in the interviews was moved to near the end for dramatic value in the film – where Nixon says “When the President does something it’s not illegal.” Some of Howard’s secrets in shooting the film on a tight budget are also interesting. The Blu-ray transfer is excellent.
– John Sunier