MOVIE REVIEW | Reds (1981)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Snippets of real life people sharing their real life memories made me care more about the characters and the story more than anything between Beatty and Keaton.”

Reds 1
“Jack dreams that he can hustle the American working man, who’s one dream is that he could be rich enough not to work, into a revolution led by his party.”

In 1979, Warren Beatty was personally nominated for two Oscars for his work on Heaven Can Wait.  That’s nothing short of amazing.  What’s even more amazing, is that he backed up and did it again just a couple of years later.  But while Heaven Can Wait was well made fluff, the following year’s movie to get Beatty all of that Oscar attention was nothing less than an epic.  A passion project he’d been trying to get off the ground for almost 20 years.  The three hour biopic, Reds.

It’s 1915, and radical journalist John Reed (Beatty) is giving a lecture based on his radical ideas.  A lecture attended by rich and married socialite, Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton).  Blown away by his ideas and realising how wasteful her life has been, Louise throws it all away to be with Reed.  Once together, Louise starts to discover her own love of writing.  Together, they get deeper and deeper in politics and activism.  They also become close with playwright Eugene O’Neill (Jack Nicholson).   Close enough for Louise to have an affair with Jack.  But John convinces her that their love is too strong to be harmed by the odd infidelity, which is handy, because he’s been rooting around too.

John and Louise’s political activism reaches extreme levels when they just so happen to be in Russia for the 1917 revolution.  Here, John decides that communism is the key to America’s salvation as well, and he heads home top push his red agenda.  All the while, Reed is also battling a kidney disorder that threatens to take him down.  And if his kidneys don’t, the anti-communist alarmists in America might.

Taking a year or so to film, and another year or so to edit, there are stories of Beatty insisting on literally hundreds of takes of certain scenes in Reds.  And I don’t know if it’s because I knew that or not, but I feel like you can see that obsessiveness on the screen.  Not always in a good way either.  So much of Reds is so obviously agonised over, it’s hard to ever see its characters as actual people.  Instead, I just see Warren Beatty the director, micro managing every slight movement or gesture of Keaton and Warren Beatty the actor.
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Funnily enough, it’s the bits when people aren’t acting, that account for Reds’ most compelling moments.  Throughout the movie, we get segments of talking head interviews with people who were there, who knew Reed and Bryant.  Well into old age when Beatty filmed interviews with them throughout the 70s, these snippets of real life people sharing their real life memories made me care more about the characters and the story more than anything between Beatty and Keaton.

Directed By – Warren Beatty
Written By – Warren BeattyTrevor Griffiths

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about Reds?
The A.V Club
The New York Times
Left Film Review


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