The 1970s were a turbulent time in the U.S. and a lot of interesting films came out of that time. Niels Mueller firmly sets The Assassination of Richard Nixon in the 70s as he shows the transformation and decline of a man who slowly becomes disconnected from reality. Shot in an evocative high-contrast style (by Emmanuel Lubezki) that carefully mirrors the state of mind of Sam Bicke played by Sean Penn. It’s another controlled burn with Penn trying to make sense of his life in an unrewarding job while separated from his wife and children. The world doesn’t make sense and as he watches the news he begins to connect with those who fight the system and who are opposed to Richard Nixon.
The film feels as if it was made in the 1970s (in a good way) and I couldn’t help but think of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver which also follows the decline of a man who doesn’t fit in. But Sam Bicke isn’t Travis Bickle and while Taxi Driver has a sense of dread from the very beginning and Robert De Niro has a sense of menace, Penn’s Bicke is a person we feel sympathetic as the world doesn’t make sense and he tries to do the right thing. But the routine grinds him down and he only seems to connect with things he sees in the media which helps him form his plan. A dark and precise portrait of a tragic figure.
tags: film, review, theassassinationofrichardnixon