Universal Home Video
Cast: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Oliver Pratt, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, BD Live, Picture-in-picture Track and more
When I first heard about this project I have to admit that I was not in the least intrigued by it. Nixon is not a president I have a lot of sympathies for and just like I simply couldn't get myself to watch Oliver Stone's film "W" about that half brain ex-president of ours, I could not see any entertainment value in this particular film. It was only after it received so much acclaim and award nominations that I took notice of "Frost Nixon" and when Universal Home Entertainment sent over the Blu-Ray version, I decided to give it a spin.
Based on Peter Morgan's stage play, which in turn was based on the real-life events, "Frost Nixon" tells the story how British talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen) decided to pursue an interview opportunity with Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) after the president had fallen from grace and resigned his presidency. Frost instinctively knew that there was tremendous potential in such an interview, trying to get the ex-president to talk about his true motivations.
He hires James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell) and Bob Zelnick (Oliver Pratt) to dissect Nixon's history, presidency, and of course all things related to the Watergate scandal. Reston in particular is eager to make sure the president will not get off easily, digging deeper and deeper, trying to crucify Nixon in front of the camera with facts and forcing him to finally admit to the world that he was a scheming fraud, a liar and that he instigated criminal acts.
All the while, David Frost travels the world with his two TV shows – one in the UK, the other in Australia – while also trying to secure funding for the interview by selling the concept to a major network in the US. But no network bites. Everyone thinks the playboy from England doesn't have the teeth, nor the political prowess, to face someone like Nixon and come out on top. Frost ends up putting up his own money to pay Nixon to appear in front of the camera and to get the production under way.
Over a series of days they film the Nixon interviews and every day, Nixon, indeed, comes out looking better and better. Until on the last day he has to face Frost's questions about Watergate. What followed went down in the history books, and definitely deserves to be seen. Needless to say that the TV networks kissed Frost's feet once they realized what he had on film.
Director Ron Howard made a number of really smart choices when he tackled this project. First, he hired Peter Morgan to adapt his play to the screen himself, and then he went on to hire the cast of the stage play, Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, to play their characters in front of the camera also. As a result you get actors who are very comfortable in their roles and can play them to the hilt. The result is amazing. Frank Langella in particular conjures up the memory of president Nixon like probably no actor could have. Immersed in the character, he sounds, walks and looks like Nixon like you would not believe, adding to the great drama this film creates.
The film is well-plotted and although we know how it will all end, following the struggle that Frost went through to get his interview on the road, as well as the inner turmoil eating away at Richard Nixon, makes this film a great experience.
Arriving in a 1080p high definition transfer on this Blu-Ray disc, there is very little not to like about the release. The transfer is razor sharp and reveals an incredible level of detail. Wonderfully restoring the look of the 70s, the movie is awash in rich colors and warm tones, but also creates very deep shadows with solid blacks to recreate both the world these characters were living in, as well as the characters' darker sides in a visual fashion. There is not a hint of grain and not a single blemish in the transfer, making this a wonderful presentation to behold.
Universal has added a DTS 5.1 HD MAster Lossless Audio track to the release, making sure that the audio presentation is equally as impressive. With a wide frequency response, the track has an absolutely natural feeling to it throughout. The understate score, the perfect mix of dialogue, sound effects and music, make "Frost Nixon" remarkable in that everything serves the film and the story and never desires to shine for its own sake. It is an example of a masterful audio presentation.
There are a number of bonus materials included on the release, such as a Making Of Featurette, giving you a look behind the scenes. It features interviews with cast and crew members, as well as comments from the real David Frost. In the Featurette "The Real Interview" cast and crew members examine how the look and feel of the original interview has influenced the way they approached the film and how they tried to capture some of the most magical moments that made history. While the title of the featurette is somewhat misleading – I was expecting to see the real Frost nixon interview in its entirety – this featurette is nonetheless a very valuable addition, as it shows excerpts from the real interview, as well as discussion about its relevance.
Also included is a look at the locations in the movie. As Ron Howard points out, the filmmakers have been fortunate enough to peruse many of the original locations, including the Nixon Library, Nixon's home Casa Pacifica as well as the Smith House in which the original interviews took place.
The there are the "Nixon Chronicles" and "Discovering Secrets", even more additional information about the real-life events surrounding the Nixon presidency, resignation and the interviews.
Last but certainly not least, the release also contains a commentary track by Ron Howard in which he discusses the film in-depth. Without being overly technical in nature, Howard discusses the making of the film but also the events that lead up to it, as well as his own understanding and take on the events depicted in the film. Clearly you cannot have a commentary track for a film like "Frost Nixon" without political references and Howard does a great job laying it all out for the viewer to understand. In the track he also references obvious similarities with the Bush presidency which managed to bring America's trust in politics to an all-time low.
Also look for deleted scenes and a picture-in-picture track with additional information.
"Frost Nixon" was an incredibly engaging experience and despite my initial inhibitions a film I enjoyed very much. The actions of Nixon are inexcusable, clearly, and I have no real sympathies for the man. At the same time they seem miniscule in the light of the deceit we have seen happening under Bush, which bordered on a dictatorship. Clearly there never has been a better time to make a film like "Frost Nixon" and empowered with all we've seen, hopefully we can make sure that American politics will be scrutinized more closely by the public to ensure these lapses in judgment won't happen again.