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Stars: Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall, Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Matthew Macfadyen, Toby Jones, Patty McCormack

Director: Ron Howard

Based on the smash-hit stage play by Peter Morgan, this true-life drama centres on the worldwide exclusive interview secured by Britain's David Frost with disgraced ex-US President Richard Nixon.

Each side has its supporters, and the series of four two-hour interviews develops into a kind of boxing match, with breaks in which both battlers take advice from their corners. In Nixon's corner is the formidable Jack Brennan (Bacon), but Frost, though inexperienced as a heavweight interrogator, is determined to get his man.

'Sixty per cent of what he did was good and right,' blusters Brennan in defence of his boss. 'Thirty per cent might have been wrong, but he thought it was right.' 'That,' snarls Frost, 'leaves 10 per cent when he was wrong and knew it.'

But Nixon proves a wary and wily opponent. The first session, with the ex-Prez allowed to ramble, is bland and Frost is told so. The next two improve, but not enough. Money is short (with Frost using his own), advertising drops and backers start pulling the plug. Ironically, it's a ranting midnight call from a slightly drunken Nixon that gives Frost the wake-up call he needs: Frost gets the message and decides to do some serious homework.

The film suffers from an obvious problem - in that all its fireworks and depth charges are in the last reel, and the director can't quite keep it afloat for the preceding 100 minutes. Sheen does his Tony Blair impersonation, but with a dead-on Frost voice, while Langella, although nothing like his character in looks, is equally spot-on with voice, demeanour and mannerisms.

Film buffs might like to note that the Patty McCormack playing Nixon's wife really is the same child star who chilled us all in The Bad Seed in 1956.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
122 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 17 Jan 2009