These are really the things that define a film, not action, explosions, car chases, etc., and Frost/Nixon has it down to a tee.
Now it's available on DVD and Blu-ray and I was lucky enough to get a DVD to review, unfortunately it wasn't a Blu-ray. The DVD is an interesting offering and does bring much more to the film, but at the same time there are a few things missing, and I wonder if we may see another release in the future.
I found so many more details in the film that I didn't notice before, and not just in the superb production values but also in the script and moments between ancillary characters. What really did strike me is how powerful some of the off-camera (the camera's in the story that is) moments between Frank Langella and Michael Sheen really are, particularly the more innocuous moments and comments.
I also discovered that there were a lot more humour in the film during the second viewing. Overall it becomes a much richer and deeper experience, and really does elevate the film even more.
However there is one small negative I felt, and that was how quickly the final interview and the dramatic research sequences spearheaded by the phone call come in the film. I was amazed at how quickly this section came in the film and genuinely believed there could have been more in a Director's Cut, perhaps there still will be yet.
The picture has one great setback, and that may be down to the copy I've received because it is continually plastered with the message on the middle of the screen "Property of...blah blah blah". I'm obviously not trusted, and rightly so because of all the pirated films I know about they're all screener quality and come from somewhere within the industry prior to a public screening.
Anyway, there is a flaw with the picture, stylistic choice or not, it seems that the contrast is much harder than the film, harsh is the word I would say in fact. This results in outside and outside lit shots looking extremely washed out and overpowering the picture, with any sky shot looking completely white.
However shots which aren't flooded with outdoor light look great, there's a lot of detail and a stylistic grain, particularly in the retrospective interviews of the characters, and a rich feeling in some of the shots, brought through by the excellent production values and the excellent cinematography.
Dolby Digital 5.1
There is some use of the rear speakers during a few crowd scenes and more cluttered moments as well as some of the score, but they do seem pretty low and just about all of the audio comes from the front speakers. That's no real surprise in most of the film because the film is predominantly dialogue.
Audio Commentary with Ron Howard, Making of featurette, Nixon Library featurette, Deleted Scenes
There are a few deleted scenes which are given in their entirety, and they are almost completely through the production process. Some of the scenes are additional moments in existing, new scenes which add something different to the existing scene, and some montage scenes that have different cuts to them.
The different opening sequence montage is a really interesting one and gives a different insight into the character of Nixon, as well as a strong connection with the very final interview sequence.
The sequence where Nixon says goodbye to his staff is another revealing moment for the character but I think shows a weaker side to the character that we didn't want to see too early.
Once viewing them you can see why they aren't in the film, but seeing them here adds some differing angles to the characters and the story.
Making of Frost/Nixon:
Usual featurette that looks to the actors, director, cinematographer, production design and discuss their areas of the film. Some of the most interesting parts are investigating the production of the sets, some of the aspects of the physical filming, and some of the work of the actors. There's also a chance for the actors to be compared against the real life characters with a few of them appearing on screen and discussion about their performances.
The Real Interviews:
This is actually a disappointing extra. I entered this thinking that we might see the actual interview, or a side by side comparison, even of just the final interview, or the crucial sequence of the final interview. That didn't happen.
We did see some comparisons which were fascinating to watch and see just how realistic the script and performances are for Frost and Nixon. It also looks at the complexities of recreating the set for the interviews, although I do think this could have been in the previous featurette.
Here I would have liked to have seen the original interviews themselves, and at best some side by side comparison for the final interview or scenes.
The Nixon Library:
This is a look at the Richard Nixon Library with Ron Howard and the Director and Assistant Director of the Library, who were both, along with many other employees looking after the library, are ex-members of Nixon's staff.
We get to see inside the library with recreations of the rooms and the Director tells us a lot of what Nixon was about and what he really was like. It talks about what the Presidential Libraries are, why they are built, and why this one was built near the house that Nixon's father built himself.
It's an interesting featurette but a little short.
Audio Commentary with Director Ron Howard:
The audio commentary with Ron Howard is fascinating and perhaps the best commentary I've heard from one person. Usually on a film where we see a great cast of actors producing amazing performances, coming from such a rich background with a great writer and being based on real life characters, I would want to hear from them in some capacity and think that the commentary was lesser without them. Not so with Ron Howard.
Howard seems like a genuinely collaborative and selfless man as he talks about all aspects of the film and those involved with great reverence. From the briefest appearances and impact of actors to the two main guns, from the cinematographer and composer to the writer, and pulling in lots from the play and the real life interviews, footage and tapes.
It's truly a fascinating commentary that goes beyond the usual discussion of camera angles and composing of shots, although there is a lot of that, Howard puts such depth and richness in them you'd think he was acting a script out himself.
He discusses the interview scenes and how they are acted in quite a bit of detail, really drilling into the performances from Langella and Sheen as well as the script from Peter Morgan, and giving some fascinating reveals about their performances, the original play, how they worked it into the film, and the level of behind the scenes work from the research to the production design.
Some of the reveals include how they decided upon taking the two leads from the play, how little mistakes they made in the film, how they filmed without much rehearsing, shooting crowd scenes with dummies in the background, and even the pivotal phone call conversation and the creative license involved.
The level of detail that went into making the film is amazing, and the work and development that came from Howard and his team is stunning, especially when he talks about it so passionately and informed. He has a huge wealth of information and insight into the film and the whole film-making process.
It's a fascinating and insightful commentary.
Frost/Nixon is an excellent film and whatever treatment it got on DVD and Blu-ray would still mean you would be getting a great film.
Interestingly the Blu-ray offers one more featurette and a picture in picture and text pop-up option for viewing the film. The PiP option delivering comments from many different people involved in the film, including the real life characters, talking about the events and the film itself, while the text pop-up offers facts about Nixon throughout the film. With a DTS-HD audio and a Blu-ray picture, personally I would consider buying that than the DVD offering.
However the DVD offering adds a lot to the experience, particularly in the fantastic audio commentary from Ron Howard.
However the transfer I watched had a rather harsh contrast to the picture and didn't look as strong as the film viewing, and the additional extras on the disc, while informative and provided more information, could have done more.
Both the Real Interviews and the Nixon Library featurette were quire glossy, and for such an informative piece of film-making based on a great stage play both so well researched from the real life characters and events, I would have liked to have seen much more.