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Forget Rocky vs. Creed, Luke vs. Vader, or Batman vs. Joker.
These cinematic duels rely more on testosterone than wit, and, sometimes, wit throws the stronger punch.
Take the notorious interview between President Nixon and David Frost, for instance. There are no boxing gloves, but the dialogical jabs and dodges are just as entertaining. I’m not sure how much of Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon is fictionalized, but this film isn’t about documenting history. It’s about two men with dark pasts and devious agendas stuck in a room with the cameras rolling. The moment one speaks, the other has his guard up, awaiting the next knockout opportunity.
In 1974, President Richard M. Nixon (Frank Langella) resigns from office under the scandal of Watergate. A few months later, exiled English television personality, David Frost (Michael Sheen), comes up with the audacious idea of interviewing Nixon about his tenure as president and involvement in Watergate. After years of pleading and bargaining, the two finally face off in four sessions of interviews that test Frost’s mettle as a political interrogator and Nixon’s knack for covering the truth. In real life, it was a tremendous moment in history. In the movie, it is an intense, enthralling experience, worthy of a 2008 Top Ten list.
Frost/Nixon originally comes from Peter Morgan’s stage play in which the two lead actors were also a part (Langella ended up winning the Tony award). By keeping the same actors and giving directing rights to Ron Howard, we get an unrelenting movie that recalls the fading of a national nightmare and an infamous presidency.
Langella certainly doesn’t look like Richard Nixon, but he embodies his internal pain so well, it is easy to make believe. He is opposite Michael Sheen who played Tony Blair in the remarkable The Queen (2006). Both work so well jabbing and jiving off each other, and it is fascinating to see the strategizing in the first interviews evolve into attacks and then to sympathy. Nixon’s long-awaited admission to Watergate was also his face hitting the floor.
This is the classic David and Goliath battle, but even the loser gets something after the knockout: Closure.
That therapeutic, sentimental, yet oh-so-necessary component to any relationship’s end is something I don’t think we’ll ever get from Donald Trump.
If, by chance, a miracle would grace us, what journalist do you think would get the opportunity to confront Trump in the ring?