Review: Reds (1981)



Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty, Trevor Griffiths
194 min.
Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Edward Herrmann, Jerzy Kosinski, Jack Nicholson, Paul Sorvino, Maureen Stapleton, Nicolas Coster, M. Emmett Walsh, Ian Wolfe, Bessie Love, MacIntyre Dixon, Pat Starr, Eleanor D. Wilson, Max Wright, George Plimpton, Gene Hackman
MPAA Rating
R (original); PG (re-rated after appeal)

Buy on DVD



There have been dozens of romantic epics and each one attempts to create a timeless story that decades later will still resonate with audiences. And while Reds may not have the staying power of Gone With the Wind, Doctor Zhivago or Titanic, it remains one of the most resonant social dramas in the last half century. The story resolves around an acclaimed American writer who attempted to protect the American worker from money-hungry capitalists by embracing what he saw in the Russian Revolution as a chance to bring a worker-centric government to the U.S. only to discover Communism itself was just as prone to abuse and corruption as capitalism.

Warren Beatty’s pet project which took more than a decade to fully realize, takes place in the years leading up to and entering World War I as minor American unions attempted to thwart American involvement in the war amid fears that the country was doing so out of a need to recoup its vast investments in France and Britain. While the film takes place nearly a century ago, the parallels with today’s social and political concerns is rather astounding. That this film was also released in 1981, the year Ronald Reagan took office is additionally interesting. Yet, only looking back can we see just how interesting such a release was.

Beatty co-wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film and did an admirable job in all four positions. The performances are all top notch from leads Beatty and Diane Keaton down to supporting players Edward Herrmann, Jack Nicholson, Paul Sorvino and especially Maureen Stapleton. Every technical aspect is perfectly constructed and although the film tends to feel every bit its near-four-hour length, you come to expect such in epic pictures. While it might not be for everyone, anyone looking for a keen and semi-prophetic look at modern politics might want to give it a watch.
Review Written
August 30, 2010

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