Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton star in what is probably one of the more critically acclaimed movies I had never heard of before. Reds, out on DVD for the first time, was nominated for 12 Oscars back in 1981 and won for Best Director, among a couple others. While well acted and well done, Reds is not the powerhouse I expected it to be.
Beatty, who also wrote and directed the picture, stars as John Reed, a passionate American journalist who strongly advocates that communism is the wave of the future. Set against the Russian revolution and World War I, Reed sees the words of Marx compelling the American people to seize what is theirs. Along for the ride is his fiercely independent author of a wife Louise Bryant (Keaton), whose interest in his politics goes from moderate agreement to disdain as it becomes clearer and clearer that communism is not all it was cracked up to be. Despite a variety of problems with their relationship, their love is put to the test when John gets thrown in a Russian prison and Louise strikes out to do anything she can.
Beatty and Keaton are at their best here, and Beatty is especially powerful. Despite his fame, I really haven't seen that many movies with him - Dick Tracy is the first one that comes to mind. Beatty completely immerses himself into the role, commanding just about every scene he's in. And in a movie where Gene Hackman and Jack Nicholson also have large parts, that says a lot.
The movie is a strong entry in Beatty's career, and while the movie plays well from beginning to end, it is not what I would consider to be an amazing film. At 185 minutes it is extremely long, and I have to wonder if a little more editing could have tightened up the plot. There are large sections that seem to ramble on a bit, and at times I wasn't even sure what country the characters were in.
Most interesting about Reds is that the movie is frequently interrupted by documentary-style interviews with what appear to be real people from the time period as they remark on the story and its characters. While these "interviews" don't detract from the film the way I thought they would, they certainly beg the question how the film would have performed had it been without the 20 or so minutes devoted to such material.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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