Thursday, April 09, 2015

"Nixon" (1995)

"Always remember: others may hate you. But those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself."

President Richard Nixon is alone with his thoughts, listening to his tape recordings and reflecting on a life that is about to come crashing down around him. Haunted by the past and surrounded on all sides by enemies waiting for his fall, he finds himself trapped within his failures, suffocating under the weight of his memories.

This film covers the length and breadth of Nixon's life, with Anthony Hopkins in the titular role. He does a great job of bringing the 40th President to life. While he looked nothing like the man, Hopkins adopted several of his affectations that translate well on the screen, the barking voice and the jutting teeth. There are also several moments where a flick of his tongue gives him a rather reptilian look.

Hopkins and Director Oliver Stone manage to present a story that explains rather than excuses the man for his actions. Surprisingly they create a somewhat sympathetic character in Nixon, showing him to be a man eventually consumed by guilt. Burdened by the religious expectations of his mother and the ghosts of two dead brothers, their memory hung like a weight around his brain. But we're also shown the petty creature behind the mask, the man who remembered all who'd wronged him, punishing them in his own way, years later. He is always the wronged party, always on the defensive no matter the circumstance. He was a man continuously left unsatisfied by his successes, driven by feelings of inferiority that would eventually lead to his own destruction, encouraging viewers to both pity and loathe him.

While a lengthy film, the use of music lends an amount of emotionality to scenes and creates tension that drives the story forward.

Where the film fell flat was the extraneous use of visuals to illustrated emotion and memory. They felt jarring and random, interrupting the scene and drawing the viewer out of the film. Instead of added to the overall tapestry of the story they rather cluttered it. As well, it felt like overkill for the film to imply that Nixon was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

I would recommend watching the film primarily for the Hopkins and the supporting characters. They bring these characters to life, providing viewers with a front-row seat to Nixon's rise and fall.

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