Directed by Warren Beatty
Written by Warren Beatty and Trevor Griffiths
Starring: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Gene Hackman, Jack Nicholson, Paul Sorvino, Edward Herrmann, Maureen Stapleton
When journalist John Reed (Beatty) gets caught up in the fervor of the Russian Communist revolution he returns to the United States looking to spread the spirit. As he seeks to spread the ideals of Communism, he is joined by Louise Bryant (Keaton) who finds herself attracted to Reed’s cause and his charisma.
This movie is based on the life of journalist John Reed. Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde) took on the project after discovering the story in the sixties. The original screenplay was written by Beatty in 1969, but it would be another 12 years before the film was completed. In that time Beatty enlisted Trevor Griffiths (Singing the Blues in Red) to help him polish the script. Warren Beatty won his only Oscar, for Best Director, for this one. The film was also nominated for Best Picture. Although he initially planned on remaining behind the camera, Warren Beatty would eventually star in this movie. In addition, the cast includes Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Gene Hackman (The Conversation), Jack Nicholson (The Departed), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), Maureen Stapleton (Cocoon), and Edward Herrmann (The Aviator).
This is a unique story that examines the life of John Reed and his involvement in the Communist revolution in Russia. In addition to events in Russia, the film also looks at the Communist party formed in the United States. The politics of the era are mixed in with the more personal aspects of the story. The story also builds around the lives of real figures from the era. One nice aspect of the film are the real interviews done with people who knew Reed and others from that time. These interviews serve to move the story from one period to the next. They also give the movie more of a documentary style feel which does slow things down. If the writing suffers at all, it’s from a need of action. There are many moments that seem to be repeated throughout the movie for effect. Unfortunately, the effect seems to be lost in the slower pace of the overall film. Still, this is a great story that has incredible moments. Warren Beatty and Trevor Griffiths shared an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for their work on this movie.
The acting in this movie is really great. Every one of the stars brings the era to life through their character. Warren Beatty gives an emotional and charismatic performance as John Reed. Beatty was nominated for Best Actor for his work. He is also great alongside Diane Keaton. She was asked to evolve her character more than any of the other actors in this one, and she does a good job. She was also nominated for Best Actress for her performance in this movie.
Gene Hackman and Jack Nicholson also deliver with their roles in this movie. Nicholson has some particularly great moments opposite Keaton. Nicholson received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this film. In addition, Maureen Stapleton’s performance as Emma Goldman earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Paul Sorvino and Edward Herrmann also do good work in this one. Along with the many other actors in this movie, the stars really came together to bring this unique story to life.
The camera work in this movie is excellent. The film earned an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and a nomination for Best Editing. Shooting took place in five countries and the locations and sets used are amazing. Reds also earned Oscar nominations for Best Set Design and Best Costuming. The era came to life nicely with the props, costuming and other visual tools used. In addition to the visuals, the film also earned an Oscar for Best Sound. The score for the film is a great one, put together by Steven Sondheim (Dick Tracy).
This is a unique movie that requires a measure of patience due to the slower pace. Still, the payoff is there and the performances along the way are impressive. If you’re into history films this is one you should see. I would definitely suggest this to fans of any of the stars mentioned above. Additionally, this is a good one for people into dramas or biographical films. Keep in mind that this movie runs over three hours, so make sure you’re in for the long haul. I give this one 4 out of 5 stars.