Chris Bond

Assassination of Richard Nixon, The

10th April 2005
The Assassination of Richard Nixon Poster reviewer: Chris Bond
rating: 4 out of 5
directed by: Niels Mueller
written by: Kevin Kennedy and Niels Mueller
starring: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle
genre: Drama
released: 8th April 2005

On February 22nd 1974, Samuel Byck (changed to Bicke in the film to allow for fictional events) attempted to hijack a plane from Baltimore-Washington International Airport with the intent on crashing into the White House and killing then U.S. President Richard Nixon. Not many people will have heard of Samuel Byck, whilst his attempts were reported in the media, his reasons for the attempted hijack were never disclosed. ‘The Assassination of Richard Nixon’ is a clear attempt to provide an insight as to what would drive a man to this sort of desperate action.

Sean Penn plays Sam Bicke, a salesmen (who hates lying to his customers) who harbors the American Dream, with hopes of reconciling his failed marriage and starting up his own business with his best friend (played by Don Cheadle). Needless to say, this dream is taken away from him. His wife (played by Naomi Watts) has no plans of reconciliation and his relationship with his children is tenuous. When his application for a loan is refused it pushes him further into paranoia and eventually into political scheming. Bicke believes the government and system is corrupt; images of Richard Nixon haunt him, and eventually he decides the only thing to do is take out the head of this corruption.

This is a powerful drama with obvious political connections to today (Nixon twice lied to the American people about pulling out of the war to win the election). Bicke’s breakdown and decent into paranoia is uncomfortable to watch but is utterly gripping thanks to a wonderful performance by Penn. However, a movie like this relies on the strength its characters and this is where the film falters slightly.

Presumably we are meant to sympathize with Bicke and his situation, but at times this is hard to do. I felt pity for Bicke, but not once did I feel that his situation was dire enough to justify the extremity of his final actions. This was a man who was clearly unstable before his American Dream was shattered; his decision to be a salesmen appears odd, and his loan application is turned down not because of racism but because Bicke presents himself as unreliable.

Despite the slight failings of the characters, this is a great movie, with a wonderful performance from Penn and exquisitely shot but it isn’t for everyone; if you like your movies more mainstream then avoid, but for everyone else, then this should be seen.