Nixon - * *

Great performances help redeem director/screenwriter Oliver Stone’s twisted fiasco. Anthondy Hopkins takes the title role, which somewhat follows the life and presidency of Richard Nixon. Oliver Stone chooses to tell the story mostly in flashback. He starts with the final days of the Watergate scandal which brought down the Nixon presidency. He then flashes back to Nixon’s earlier political career, and to his strict upbringing as well. At the outset of the film, Stone warns the audience that several of the scenes and theories presented in the film are strictly hypothetical. His imaginative stretches range from the trivial (such as condensing a series of meetings) to the blatantly preposterous (showing the true power over the United States, a secret cabal of Texas millionaires plotting the assassination of Kennedy and others). However, aside from the political content of the picture, there are several glaring flaws with the film; and like the political content, they can all be traced to Oliver Stone. His screenplay is simply inane, with preposterous dialogue. Stone is also stuck in the JFK/Natural Born Killers style of filming and editing. However, what worked so well in those films proves disastrous with Nixon. The president’s tale is convoluted as it is, and doesn’t need the assistance of Stone’s dizzying mix of film stocks, camera angles and jump cuts, or his non-Euclidean plot flow. The only saving grace in this film are the performances…and they are terrific. Anthony Hopkins, while not physically aping Nixon, manages to cut down to the essence of the character, and gives a stunning display of a tragic soul. The supporting cast is also well above par, from Paul Sorvino’s Kissinger to Joan Allen’s Pat Nixon. The performances are so good, in fact, that they almost make Nixon worth watching.

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