tcc: frost/nixon

December 31, 2008

“i’m saying that when the president does it, that means it’s not illegal!”

i missed (or haven’t caught up with) frank langella’s very praised performance in 2007’s starting out in the evening, and to be honest wasn’t too interested in catching up with it.  i don’t know what it was, but something from the preview and just the way langella looked screamed boring to me.  he seemed so rigid, so much like he was performing for the camera.  and that’s what i thought i was going to get going into frost/nixon as well.  a man “performing” richard nixon for me.  but what langella does is so much more.

at first i was a little underwhelmed by him.  i thought it was just going to be two hours of a guy doing his best nixon impersonation, but he really transforms the role as the film goes on.  once we get into the interview scenes (the real meat of the film), langella becomes so enveloped by the character that i was completely drawn in by him.  he’s magnetic and sympathetic and distant and callous at the same time.  langella express more in a close-up than any other actor this year.  you can feel nixon’s remorse and pain over everything he’s gone through in langella’s face.

and all that would be enough to recomend the film alone, but i think there are great performances all around.  michael sheen i thought really held his own in the scenes with him and langella.  i believe he would be considered the leading role in this film, and he plays his scenes strong enough that there is depth and emotion to them and they get us to where we need to be for their final showdown.

and the final showdown might be the most adreline soaked moment of the year (even in the year of the dark knight).  not having a lot of prior knowledge as to the contents of the interviews, i was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to be said.  but even if you do know what nixon said i think the film delivers at this moment.  and it’s mostly because of langella.  he brings it, and the movie greatly benefits because of it.  he turns in one of the best performances of the year, and has now excited me to go back and check out some of his other work.

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