The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004) Directed by Niels Mueller. With Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle and Jack Thompson.
Based on the true story of Sam Bicke (Sean Penn), a deeply troubled man who in 1974 planned to assassinate U.S President Richard Nixon by hijacking a plane and flying it into the White House – Niels Muller’s brave post 9/11 film delves deep into Sam’s world to reveal a tormented soul struggling with a wayward perspective on life.
Sam wants to live the American dream, but is constantly derailed by his own inability to function within conventional parameters. Sam sees injustice everywhere and it spills over so much as to damage the key relationships in his life. In many ways,and not just by name, Sam is reminiscent of the self-destructive Travis Bickle from Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Diver. Bickle’s warped perspective and one-man mission to make a stand against the system is echoed all the more by the 70’s period and political backdrop.
Sean Penn is sensational as Sam, provoking feelings of pity as he’s taunted by his boss and shunned by his estranged wife, yet also manages to perfectly capture the essence of a man on the fringes of sanity with frightening accuracy. Penn is well supported by a trio of fine performances from Don Cheadle, Naomi Watts and Jack Thompson. Knowing nothing about the real life events, I found myself drawn fully into this unsettling story of a paranoid delusional man. Everything from script, direction to acting is fully top notch and although it could never achieve the classic cult status of Taxi Driver, it stands strong as a first-rate character piece. 4/5