Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Eyes of a Politician


Producer: Universal
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall and others
Pros: Great use of suspense, Frank Langella's eyes say it all
Cons: Undecipherable for someone who hasn't read their history
Rating: *** (3 of 5)
Nominated for an Academy Award

Political movies always tend to be dark, with very little comedy. Of course, that's not a bad thing. And when the movie is about one of the most controversial American Presidents in history - Richard M. Nixon - the darker it gets, the better.

The Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, opening up diplomatic relations with China, banking deregulation and finally Watergate: Nixon's legacy in his short-lived term is long. But in the movie, Nixon (Frank Langella) shows no remorse and firmly believes that as President, he did no wrong. And he's desperate to find a way to return to Washington politics.

And his desperation finds vent in David Frost (Michael Sheen), a glitzy British talk show host who is more at ease interviewing beautiful divas than politicians. Frost brings up this wild idea that he must interview Nixon but hardly finds favour with any major production house. At the end, he is forced to pay for most of the bills on his own.

Joined by his producer and investigators, he gets down to preparing for the interviews. Or rather, they get down to that and he goes off with his new girlfriend, Caroline (Rebecca Hall). But the interviews take a toll on him and it becomes apparent that this is going to be the biggest joke in television history. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout the movie, Langella's eyes do most of the talking. In them we can see the anger, desperation and, later, the repent of Richard Nixon. The movie, however, doe not do much for those unacquainted with American history and might be rather confusing. Nonetheless, some of Nixon's final words - "If the President does it, then it's not illegal" - stand as the most powerful words in the movie.

For those looking for a laid-back movie, this is not for you. But if you're lie me and enjoy diving into the murky world of political journalism, then this movie is for you. A brilliant performance by all the actors and a powerful story to tell: what more could you ask for? (OTFS)

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