Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon shine in Elvis & Nixon
When you’re as famous as Elvis Presley, there’s not much you don’t have. Money, fame and power – tick, tick and tick. However the King of Rock and Roll decides that what he really desires is to give back to the country he loves, so embarks on a mission to be named a Federal Agent at Large.
After becoming dismayed with news reports during late 1970, Elvis (Michael Shannon) thinks he may be able to help President Nixon (Kevin Spacey) with the drug and hippy problem threatening the US of A. It’s his view that he can go undercover and infiltrate troublesome groups.
Deciding he needs to get a meeting with Nixon sharpish, Elvis enlists the help of longtime friend Jerry (Alex Pettyfer). Though Jerry has moved away from Graceland and is no longer part of Elvis’ entourage, he cares deeply for his friend and puts his job at a movie studio on hold to help his buddy, who encounters problems from the off as he tries to board a plane carrying two guns. Even in the ‘70s, and even if you’re Elvis, guns on planes just doesn’t fly (literally).
Jerry and Elvis soon make their way to Washington, rocking up to the White House with a handwritten letter for Nixon explaining the situation. The guards can’t believe their eyes, and after some sweet talking from the King, promise they’ll do their best to get the letter to the leader of the free world.
When news of the note reaches Nixon’s aides Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Chapin (Evan Peters), the pair is convinced this is exactly what the President needs to boost his popularity. After all, who doesn’t love Elvis? With visions of a TV show fronted by Elvis, Krogh and Chapin are met with a firm no from Nixon, who rubbishes the idea immediately. However when one of Nixon’s daughters hears he turned down the chance to meet her idol, the politician is scolded until he promptly changes his mind.
Assigning only five minutes to hear out Elvis’ dreams of becoming a Federal Agent at Large, a post that doesn’t actually exist, Nixon finds he is soon won over by the Southern singer’s charm and disregard of presidential protocol. Elvis even bends his initial no photo rule, posing happily with a beaming Nixon. The actual image of the infamous meet has since become the most requested picture in the Smithsonian archives.
This little known, true story really is an interesting one, but at times can feel stretched out in feature film format. While the events leading up to the snap aren’t known, this is a fun version of what could have happened. Shannon plays Elvis brilliantly as a little boy lost, and while he doesn’t instantly resemble the King, he morphs into him more and more as the movie goes on. He portrays Elvis with both tenderness and swagger, which plays well against Spacey’s blustering Nixon, who can boast another fine performance. The supporting cast all do well in their roles, including Jackass star Johnny Knoxville as Elvis and Jerry’s pal Sonny. Peters and Hanks bounce particularly well off of each other.
The soundtrack is reason alone to see this flick, and your feet won’t stop tapping throughout. There are laughs to be had, and the story is definitely one of those stranger than fiction tales you have to see to believe. Director Liza Johnson and cinematographer Terry Stacey capture the essence of the ‘70s to perfection, and with a run time of 86 minutes, it’s an easy and pleasing watch.
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