There's a sad irony to Frost/Nixon as it parallels today's political landscape — a wartime president with incredibly low approval ratings, belligerently refusing to admit any fault in a conflict costing countless lives.
What's perhaps equally tragic is this sort of naked, no-holds-barred exchange, ratings-be-damned type of mainstream television will most likely never happen in our lifetime; as we are already being treated to a "rewriting" of our sitting president's history by a cadre of his operatives. While both David Frost (Michael Sheen) and Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) get top billing, there is a third headliner in the film and that is the role of the ol’ boob tube itself.
Not only are those days of televised journalism over, but the film demonstrates just how valuable it was politically. From Nixon's admission about his sweaty upper lip costing him a debate, to Frost's entire interview being all but obsolete after no major network agrees to air it, Frost/Nixon demonstrates just how integral the tube had become in the American political landscape.
There is a workmanlike structure to the film, which follows the waning days of both its leads' careers — Frost, once an international talk show sensation, now resorting to stories on magicians in his British homeland, and Nixon, resigning his post in a web of paranoia-fueled corruption. In a desperate move for legitimacy, Frost attempts to nab Nixon for a four-part interview, but soon realizes how deep he's in it after the TV networks reject it and Nixon proves to be much more cunning and savvy a subject than his hangdog expression would indicate.
If possible, Langella should be nominated for his body language over his vocal delivery, which is more mockery than manifestation. While his harumphing and bluster can distract, the small, subtle shifts and physical tics are what makes him so imminently watchable. In his performance, we get more out of his long, uncomfortable stretches of silence, body adjustments, and far-off inner reflection than we do from his line readings.