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MOVIES: IT'S STICKY FOR TRICKY DICKY; FROST/NIXON Cert 15, 122mins ****.

Byline: DAVID EDWARDS

As showdowns go, it's right up there with Ali/Foreman, Holmes/Moriarty and David/Goliath. In 1977, former US president Richard Nixon agreed to be interviewed by British journalist David Frost.

Disgraced by the Watergate scandal three years before - in which he authorised the use of phone taps against his Democrat rivals - Nixon planned to use the meeting to clear his name. Frost had other ideas.

With a script by Peter 'The Queen' Morgan and based on the West End play, Frost/Nixon is absorbing and watchable but, like the earlier film, still feels like a TV movie with delusions of grandeur.

Dealing not just with the interviews but the events leading up to them, Frost (Michael Sheen) is a TV presenter who hits on the wildly improbable idea of trying to tap up the former President. Amazingly, Nixon (Frank Langella) agrees, setting the scene for a game of on-camera cat and mouse.

What makes the drama all the more compelling is that Frost had used his own money to land the meeting and faced ruin if it didn't come off.

As you'd expect, Morgan's screenplay is excellent and the performances spot on (there's also a great turn from Rebecca Hall as Frost's girlfriend), yet a feeling of cosiness hangs over the enterprise. It's no surprise to learn it's helmed by Ron Howard whose idea of directing is putting a camera in the corner of a room, pressing the 'on' button and then going out for doughnuts.

Just imagine what George Clooney, who almost got the gig after the excellent Good Night, And Good Luck, might have brought to the table.

THE REEL LOWDOWN

IF YOU LIKED... W, Nixon... YOU'LL LIKE THIS.

STAR RATINGS: ***** Brilliant **** Good *** Average * Poor * Dreadful

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SHOWDOWN: Frank Langella (left) and Michael Sheen; THE WAY THEY WERE: The meeting in 1977
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 23, 2009
Words:309
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