Monday, 9 March 2009


I enjoyed writing my little review of Slumdog, so I'm going to do it again.

Last week I saw another film that was nominated for best film at this year's Oscars: Frost/Nixon. It was also nominated for director, editor, adapted screenplay and best actor, although it won none of them. Of the films I've seen, it would win a couple of those, but as I mentioned in my Slumdog post, I still haven't seen a lot of the films discussed for those awards.

Frost/Nixon is a very different beast to Slumdog Millionaire. This is a film built upon performances and characters, not on story, or place. Elements like the direction, editing, pacing, setting and cinematography are well executed here, but for me they weren't notable, nor especially important.

For me, this film lives and dies by the performances of its two leads: Michael Sheen as Frost, and most importantly Frank Langella as Nixon. The former is solid - he displays the TV smile but also the ingenuity and at times insecurities behind Frost. More importantly, though, he does enough to keep up with Langella, who has the "juicy" role. Langella is really excellent. Playing Nixon is fraught with the danger of slipping into parody. His manner and mannerisms are so distinctive, and have been so often lampooned over the years, and Langella does an outstanding job of avoiding the temptation of shallow imitation, and instead crafts a nuanced and balanced portrayal. He looks a bit like Nixon, but not exactly like him, but most importantly he makes sure that what the viewer takes away isn't the physical attributes of the performance, but the behavioural: Nixon's frustration at his own actions and its impact on his legacy, his failings (greed), and his love of the intellectual combat in the interview.

I was thoroughly impressed by this film. It might not do as many things well as a film like Slumdog, and it might not be as accessible to some, but the things it does well, it does with more ambition and yet with great success.

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