The power of television and one man's drive to achieve what seems like, at times, an impossible dream, are the two central themes explored in Ron Howard's enthralling drama FROST/NIXON. The impossible dream belongs to David Frost (Michael Sheen), a moderately successful English talk show host who sets out to interview disgraced former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) following his resignation in 1974. Howard examines how Frost pulled off such an audacious achievement, and also looks at how both sides prepared for the series of interviews, which eventually transpired in 1977. The confrontation between the two is laced with tension, and the director makes it clear that both men had plenty to lose and a lot to gain, depending on who the public perceived to be in control.
Langella gives a supreme performance as Nixon, easily matching Anthony Hopkins's turn as the former president in Oliver Stone's NIXON (1995). Howard's film, which is based on the play of the same name by Peter Morgan, expertly pits the two men against one another by highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses. Frost was a consummate TV host but was out of his depth in political commentary; Nixon was highly adept at avoiding direct answers to Frost's questions, but couldn't mask his sullen facial expressions from the camera. Sheen and Langella are supported by a resolutely excellent cast, and the tension builds to almost unbearable levels as the two finally sit down and discuss Nixon's career. The key scene, in which Nixon's true feelings are exposed via a simple trick--a close-up shot of the former president's sad-eyed face, clearly indicating his deep unhappiness at all his failings--is adeptly handled by Howard, and serves to highlight how vital it is for politicians to perform under the unforgiving gaze of the media.