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release date 23/01/2009

A week is a very long time in politics.

A few days after Barack Obama's momentous inauguration, ushering in a mood of hope and change across the Atlantic, director Ron Howard looks back to the exploits of one of Obama's predecessors, who brought shame upon his countrymen and women. On August 8, 1974, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon became the first President to resign from the Oval Office. Rather than answer tough questions about his so-called crimes, Nixon was sensationally pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford, effectively robbing the American public of the trial of this humiliated statesman.

Frost/Nixon sensationally documents the efforts of an unlikely champion - British talk show host David Frost - to interview Nixon on camera and to effectively tease a confession from the wily orator. Based on the award-winning stage play by Peter Morgan, who pens the screenplay, Howard's film is a classic tale of David and Goliath, political might versus televisual fluff, blessed with tour de force performances. Frank Langella reprises his role as the fallen President, whose sense of right and wrong has become horribly confused. He clings onto the notion that his memoirs will somehow restore his tarnished reputation.

"It's probably the only chance I'm going to get to put the record straight and remind people the Nixon years weren't ALL bad," growls Langella, brilliantly capturing the bombast and explosive mood swings of this complex man. Equally compelling is Michael Sheen as Frost, the charmer and bon viveur, who is completely out of his depth against such a well-drilled opponent. "Ah, the Grand Inquisitor," smirks Nixon before one interview. "No.

Just your friendly neighbourhood confidant," replies Frost warily. Howard's masterful picture recreates the build-up to the four interviews as Nixon and his advisors, led by Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon), look forward to running rings around Frost and his three-strong team: John Birt (Matthew Macfadyen), Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and James Reston (Sam Rockwell). The first couple of tapings are a disaster and Frost looks like a buffoon. However, as the interview time nears an end, the British interrogator gets under the skin of Nixon and incites him to lay himself bare before an audience of millions.

Although it may lack some of the electrifying, hold-your-breath tension of the award-winning stage production, Frost/Nixon is a terrific distillation of a time that America would rather forget. Morgan's script hinges on the verbal sparring between the two men, the balance of power subtly shifting until the President finally capitulates. "I let down my friends. I let down the country.

Worst of all, I let down our system of government and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government but now think it's too corrupt," he laments. Those young people are cheering for Obama now. He has a lot to live up to.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2006, All Rights Reserved.

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