Unlike most people, I don't have a view of Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, as either a political tyrant or a political hero. Oliver Stone presents this neutral view in the movie Nixon, leaving the viewers to form, or possibly re-think, their own judgements. I thought this movie was a good lesson in American History, even though Stone does take quite a few liberties here and there with the "facts", as it were. But then, everyone knows there's no such thing as an objective history, right?

The movie is more than a story about Nixon. It is about the events that transpired before, during, and after Nixon's administration. Regardless of whether it is a good or bad thing, in many ways, the direction the USA was moving in was substantially altered during this period. But it would be a folly to think Nixon as the man (solely) responsible for this. That would be like saying Hitler was responsible for the events that transpired during World War II. It is inevitable that any person in a position of power is bound to screw up a few things, and end up doing good some of the time. The one distinct feature about Nixon was that he knowingly used the System to subvert its hold on the people holding power, and while it was almost guaranteed that Congress wouldn't like it, it was unfortunate he "got caught". Stone does a commendable job in bringing these points out.

In the movie, the System is compared to a wild beast. Stone's vision of this is seen throughout the movie in a subtle manner: presidential (and other) candidates come and go, but bureaucracies last forever. Nixon is portrayed as actually trying to fight this, and my personal view is that Nixon's (and his adminstration's) actions were actually good: they make one realise how petty and insipid the game of politics is. Nixon was no better or no worse than all the people before and after him who hold positions of power.

During the movie, when Nixon is debating Kennedy, one of his aides says "it isn't a beauty contest." However, Stone does appear to have made it into a bit of one---Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Nixon makes him to be a pathetic and depressed person (in contrast, John Kennedy is portrayed as handsome and distinguished); in reality however, Nixon couldn't have gotten where he had without a lot of charisma. The fact that Nixon almost defeated Kennedy, and the fact that he was re-elected by the people speaks a lot of this than what we see in the movie. However, Stone makes up for this by ending on a positive note, stating that after Nixon's resignation, the Cold War continued for more than a decade, and that the last half of the century will be known as the Nixon era.

The cinematography is excellent. It is hard to see a movie about politics which involves a lot of words and little action without getting bored. Plus >Nixon runs to about three hours, which would make even the most patient fidgety in their seats. However, Stone uses his standard tricks (black and white shots randomly scattered, rearrangement of timelines, MTV-style cutting and panning, and superimposition of images) to making this a gripping tale. The superb performances by the various actors helped in this regard.

All in all, it's a must see. However, if you're the type who gets easily annoyed by the fabrication of certain issues and passing them off as "facts", then this might not be for you.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||