Frost/Nixon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Virtually no issues cropped up in this stellar transfer.
With only one mild exception, sharpness looked excellent. During Frost’s chats with network executives, I noticed a brief soft shot. And that was it; otherwise the flick looked tremendously crisp and concise. Fine detail looked great, as even the widest shots demonstrated nice definition.
No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws weren’t a problem, though some shots looked rather grainy. This was clearly a photographic choice, as the grain cropped up solely in the “modern day” interview sequences. I wasn’t wild about the grain, but I recognized it as a film decision, not a flaw.
Frost/Nixon opted for a natural palette most of the time. Those modern interviews tended to be desaturated and cold, but the rest of the flick featured a good sense of color. These tones were consistently full and warm. Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows showed good clarity and smoothness. I felt quite impressed with this consistently attractive presentation.
While not as impressive, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Frost/Nixon suited the film. The soundfield remained restrained much of the time. A few scenes like those at airports added a little pizzazz, but these were in the minority. Instead, the movie usually went with a general sense of ambience. Nothing challenging occurred here, but the track felt appropriate.
Audio quality satisfied. Speech was concise and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music appeared lively and full, and effects were pleasing. Those elements came across as accurate and distinctive, though they didn’t exactly tax my system. All of this was good enough for a “B-”.
When we head to the set’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from director Ron Howard. He provides a running, screen-specific look at his involvement in the project and the adaptation of the play, facts and liberties, cast and performances, research, editing, and the use of archival footage, sets and locations, visual choices and effects, and music.
For the first half of the film, Howard gives us a dynamic commentary. He throws out tons of good information and keeps us involved. During the flick’s second half, he starts to run out of steam. Actually, Howard still gives us plenty of useful notes, but we hit more dead air. Even with those issues, this remains a very good commentary.
For something more interactive, we jump to U-Control. This allows two different programs that run along with the movie. The Nixon Chronicles acts as a minor form of text commentary. Its blurbs crop up periodically and tell us some facts about the film’s subjects. Despite its title, the “Chronicles” doesn’t stick solely with Nixon. It also provides a few biographical notes about Frost and the others, though it mostly tells us about Nixon, Watergate, and the like.
In addition to the text, some video footage appears. For instance, shots of the Iran-Contra trial show up at the appropriate time, and we see a little of “The Checkers Speech” when that subject arises. The “Chronicles” doesn’t prove to be fascinating, but it adds some good details.
“U-Control” also provides a Picture in Picture feature. This mixes interviews and behind the scenes footage. We get notes from Howard, producer Brian Grazer, Sir David Frost, James Reston, Jr., executive producer/screenwriter Peter Morgan, executive producer Todd Hallowell, and actors Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Matthew MacFadyen, Toby Jones, Rebecca Hall, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, and Oliver Platt. The comments cover the play and the decision to bring it to the movie screen, script and adaptation issues, cast and performances, sets and locations, thoughts about the facts behind the movie’s characters and situations, historical information, and a few other production tidbits.
While the “Chronicles” offers sporadic bits of information, “Picture in Picture” becomes a constant companion during the film. Once the first component appears, we get a non-stop series of segments that all blend into one seamless piece. Rather than just turn into the standard clip here or there, it really gives us a two-hour documentary about the film.
Albeit not the most coherent documentary, as the segments follow the onscreen action. This means we jump from one topic to another without a lot of smoothness; the segments don’t bump into each other in a jolting manner, but they don’t blend in the way we’d expect from a more traditional program.
Nonetheless, “Picture in Picture” proves quite valuable and enjoyable. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a documentary, as it’s not one in a pure sense. It’s probably closer to a video commentary, though the inclusion of many shots from the set makes it different than an ordinary track. Whatever you want to call it, I think it’s very good, as it offers two hours of useful information in a dynamic manner.
12 Deleted Scenes run a total of 30 minutes, 28 seconds. These include “More Details Prior to Resignation Speech” (2:15), “Resignation Speech” (2:29), “Frost Over Australia!” (1:28), “Nixon Farewell” (3:50), “Nixon Farewell (Video Version)” (3:50), “Frost/Bentley Car Phone” (2:38), “Swifty Wants His 10%” (0:56), “Extended 1st Cut – Research Montage” (4:14), “Mr. And Mrs. Nixon” (1:07), “David Schmoozes the Press” (1:25), “Nixon Pummels Frost” (2:32) and “Nixon Piano Solo” (1:29). Most of these scenes extend existing clips. Some do so better than others, and many are interesting just from the “curiosity” standpoint. The ones related to Nixon’s resignation fall into that category; in particular, the “Video Version” of the “Farewell” is the same as the prior “Farewell” except shot on tape.
A few clips are pretty good, though. “Pummels” adds a little more to the sense that Frost couldn’t match up with Nixon, and “Schmoozes” shows Frost’s financial troubles. “Phone” doesn’t add much to the scene in which Frost pitches the Nixon interview to Birt. I like it just because it explains why the posh Frost is dining in a crummy cafeteria.
Four featurettes follow. Discovering Secrets: The People and Places Behind the Story runs 13 minutes, 19 seconds and includes notes from Howard, Frost, Langella, director of photography Salvatore Totino, location owners Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and production designer Michael Corenblith. “Secrets” looks at research and the facts behind the movie’s portrayal. After the commentary and the “Picture in Picture” feature, we’ve already gone through a lot of info about the film. This means some repetition here, but some new perspectives bring out good details.
For the 22-minute, 58-second The Making of Frost/Nixon, we hear from Howard, Langella, Sheen, Morgan, Grazer, Frost, MacFadyen, Platt, Rockwell, Bacon, Hallowell, Hall, Totino, Corenblith, and costume designer Daniel Orlandi. The show examines the play and its move to the screen, cast and performances, costumes, production design and period issues, and cinematography. Again, the disc’s other programs have covered so much territory that redundancy becomes inevitable. Happily, “Making” still throws out some good elements. In particular, I like the revelation that Langella remained in character on the set. A shorter featurette that focused solely on those unique bits would’ve been preferable, though.
The Real Interview runs seven minutes, 28 seconds as it features Howard, Langella, Corenblith, Bacon, Reston, and Totino. This one looks at the actual 1977 interviews and attempts to recreate them. Some useful facts appear here, though I wish we’d gotten to see more of the footage from 1977.
Finally, The Nixon Library goes for six minutes, 22 seconds and includes Howard, Nixon Library executive director John H. Taylor, and assistant executive director Kathy O’Connor. We learn a few interesting things about the site, but this is essentially just an ad for the Nixon Library.
As a stage play, Frost/Nixon crackles. As a film, Frost/Nixon tends to plod. Despite some excellent performances from its top-notch case, the movie lacks urgency and fails to develop much forward momentum. The Blu-ray presents terrific picture quality, perfectly adequate audio, and an excellent collection of extras. I’m pleased with this top-notch release, but the movie itself disappoints.