BluRay Title: Frost/Nixon
Disk Release Date: 4/21/09
Screen format: 1080P High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
First theatrical release: 23 January 2009
Previous releases on disk: Day and date with DVD
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, Matthew MacFadyan, Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French and Spanish DTS 5.1
Length: 2 Hours 3 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish and French
In 1977, British TV personality David Frost (Sheen) stunned the world when he was chosen among all possible interviewers for the chance to speak at length in a relaxed, long form interview, with disgraced former president Richard Nixon (Langella). Frost/Nixon is partly a dramatization of those interviews but spreads the story out both before and after their taping, showing both sides as fierce competitors with much to gain or lose based on ‘winning’ their discussion, each backed by a team of ‘seconds’ similar to a duel or boxing match.
While playboy Frost is chosen for his potential for soft-balling the interview, his team are no slouches, including veteran producer John Birt (MacFadyan), researcher Bob Zelnick (Platt) and Nixon scholar James Reston, Jr (Rockwell). It is perhaps Reston who most famously conceives of this as the Trial Nixon would never see, due to his pardon by new President Gerald Ford. Nixon has assembled his own team which includes a young Diane Sawyer, and is led by confidant Jack Brennan (Bacon).
What makes Frost/Nixon so compelling, besides the stunning performances of Sheen and Langella who reprise their roles from the play on which the film is loosely based, is that Director Ron Howard frames this as a documentary of sorts, with the characters being interviewed by a phantom off screen and also being filmed by another more probing and insightful camera while the TV cams roll silently on. Howard focuses the discussion with a modern context as well, obviously concerned with the failures and legal hijinks of the GW Bush Presidency. And while Frost’s win is a foregone conclusion, due Nixon’s well known meltdown in the 12th interview, it is how both participants react, recover and proceed with their lives in very touching and human ways that the film really explores.
Sound Quality: 3/5
While Hans Zimmer’s score is excellent, it used quite sparingly, and outside of Langella’s amazing reproduction of a piece of original piano music composed by Nikon himself, there is very little out of the usual here sound-wise that wouldn’t be expected in a documentary drama. There are 2-3 specific instances where time slows down or crowds form where true 5.1 takes over but for the most part it is very front heavy mix. Dialogue of course is key here, and Langella’s interpretation of Nixon’s famous voice is pitch perfect and Sheen plays Frost’s smooth delivery and surprisingly low key interview style to incredible effect.
Visual Quality: 3.5/5
Howard chose to film Frost/Nixon as tho it had a 70s documentary influence without actually resorting to similar film stocks or color toning, which leaves this film as an interesting hybrid of 70s sensibilities with modern underpinnings. As such, it looks very clean but never too saturated or overly detailed. The transfer itself is clean, sharp and exactly how I would envision it looked in a theater from a coloring perspective. I did not notice a single blemish or any overuse of edge enhancement or other digital artifacts.
Extra Features: 2.5/5
There’s an adequate batch of extras on the disk but the sum total is a little slim compared to other recent Universal releases. Starting off there is a feature length commentary track with Ron Howard which I actually intend to go back and go through at a later date, which is unusual for me since I rarely have the patience for re-watching films but I think that this one might be worth it based on his past tracks and a short sampling of this one. Next up is a selection of deleted scenes all of which were excellent and added to the story, but viewers should note that they are not individually selectable, the choice is to watch all in sequence or not at all. There is also the typical (and too short ) ‘Making of’ which barely scratched the surface of this film. Also too short is ‘The real interview’ which showcases a handful of the clips that the movie reenacts, but not enough to really satisfy. My favorite extra was a look at The Nixon Library which showcases the real library and the people who run it, noting that it is housed next to the place of Nixon’s birth which was built by his father. For those who prefer interactive content, there are two seperate U-Control tracks, one which is called the Nixon Chronicles which goes into the story with pop ups featuring additional data about the real history, and the other which is called Discovering Secrets which delves into the research which helped really bring Nixon down in the 12th interview.
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
Overall I really liked the film and felt that it helped me understand Watergate and Richard Nixon a lot better than I did, since while I grew up in the 70s I really had no recollection of anything about Nixon until long after he was out of office. It also helped frame his involvement in VietNam and Cambodia for me. I suspect that the nicest thing I can say about the film is that it echoes strongly with the questions and frustrations I have about modern US politics and policy, so for that Ron Howard has his own ‘Mission Accomplished’. This disk captures the look and feel of the theatrical version as well as I would expect and backs it up with just enough extras to have me wanting more.