Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard, 122 mins, 12A
Valkyrie, Bryan Singer, 123 mins, 12A
Rachel Getting Married, Jonathan Demme, 113 mins, 15

Frank Langella's Nixon is a perfect ogre as he tries to avoid being skewered on TV by David Frost

It's not likely that we'll ever see George W Bush mounting an articulate defence of his policies, let alone apologising for letting down the American people, so we'll have to make do with Frost/Nixon, which harks back to a halcyon era when ex-presidents could string a coherent sentence together.

Adapted by Peter Morgan (Last King Of Scotland, The Queen) from his award-winning West End play, it's a snappy dramatisation of the negotiations and preparations which led to David Frost's televised interviews with Richard Nixon in 1977. Before the interviews, both men had slipped into the wilderness. Frost (Michael Sheen) had had his American talk show cancelled, while Nixon (Frank Langella) was in post-Watergate exile in California. As Morgan sees it, they are both banking on the interviews to push them back into the limelight, but Frost's researchers, played by Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell and Matthew Macfadyen (as John Birt!), see the encounters as something more vital: the trial Nixon never had.

Morgan has fashioned a deliciously witty comedy drama. He lampoons Frost as a glib playboy, and he presents Nixon as an arrogant ogre, and yet retains sympathy for both of them. In the role of a lifetime, Langella fully deserves his Oscar nomination. However, I'm not sure that Frost/Nixon's various terrific scenes quite add up to the David-and-Goliath clash the film keeps promising. Nor am I sure why Sheen's oily chancer would have any more luck with Tricky Dicky than previous inquisitors. Early on, someone opines that Frost "understood television" in a way that few did, while someone else asserts that he had "achieved great fame without possessing any discernible quality". From what we see here, it's the latter assessment that's closer to the truth.

Another fact-based blockbuster, Valkyrie, stars Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the German officers and politicians who conspired to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. A more interesting film might have examined how someone who swore a loyalty oath to the Fuhrer could have had such a drastic change of heart. But Valkyrie isn't a drama, it's a thriller, and it's so urgent that there's no time for any discussion that doesn't propel the plot forward. Even though it's got a heavyweight British supporting cast, including Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp and Tom Wilkinson, none of them has any dialogue too wordy to fit in the trailer. "We have to show the world that not all of us were like him," Branagh declares – and that's subtle by Valkyrie standards.

The action is so muscular and economical that it's sometimes possible to forget Valkyrie's unavoidable problem: we know what happens at the end. One snag that could have been avoided, though, is the weird inconsistency of accents. Cruise is as American as ever, while the British actors all sound English except for David Bamber, who plays Hitler with a Teutonic hiss. It seems that only the evil Germans were properly German, whereas the good ones were American and British – they just didn't realise it.

Rachel Getting Married features Anne Hathaway as Kym, a recovering addict who has a weekend pass from rehab to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). A former model, Kym can't bear not to be the centre of attention, so she bickers, complains, showboats and screws her way through the ceremony. It's a long way from The Princess Diaries.

It's also a long way from Silence Of The Lambs, Philadelphia, and Jonathan Demme's other glossy Hollywood productions. Rachel Getting Married is a partly improvised indie film, and proud of it, with a roaming fly-on-the-wall camera which focuses as much on the toasts and the music being played by the happy couple's bohemian friends as it does on Kym's struggle to find a place in her family. It's an approach that has its drawbacks. The musicians' incessant busking will make some viewers want to stab themselves with a silver cake slice, and the film keeps going well after its dramatic climax. But there's no gainsaying the power and subtlety of the central performance. As the tightly-wound, tactless Kym, Hathaway sets herself apart from the Jessicas, Scarletts, and other actresses of her generation who are acclaimed more for their appearances in men's magazines than in cinemas. If her Oscar nomination for this film means she doesn't have to sign on for any more dross like Bride Wars, we can all be grateful.

Also showing

Faintheart (90 mins, 12A)

'Faintheart' is a groundbreaking film in that it was produced via online auditions and votes on MySpace. Bearing that in mind, it's not too bad. Eddie Marsan is its dim hero, whose preoccupation with medieval battle re-enactments gets him thrown out by his long-suffering wife, Jessica Hynes. A bigger budget and a much bigger plot would have helped, but there have been worse attempts to imitate 'The Full Monty'.

Better Things (93 mins, 15)

At low-budget British film's other extreme, there's the uncompromisingly bleak 'Better Things', which begins with the funeral of a young woman who has taken a heroin overdose, and gets grimmer from there. It's an artily elliptical portrait of some mumbling rural teenagers who narcotise themselves with glum sex, dangerous driving and heroin. And their grandparents are even more miserable than they are. It's a film with a niche market, to put it mildly.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup