Reds (1981)


By: Byron Davel (A Toast) –

One of the greatest films of the last fifty years, nominated for 12 Academy Awards, Reds takes you on an intellectual and stimulating journey through the world of John Reed as he travels between Russia and the United States, in a hope that he may bring communism back to America and get the citizens of America to share in this radical idea of thinking. That is the plot, really, but the three hour epic film delves into a lot more, relationships, politics, friendship, war, socialism and the October Revolution of 1917.

Before one watches this film there are a few things you have to know. The film is set in 1917 and progresses until 1920 , and the entire film revolves around the Revolution of 1917 and the effect that communism had on the people of Russia and how that specific form of leadership could be incorporated in America. The main players of this historical epic are; Warren Beatty (Jack Reed) who I might add also directed, Diane Keaton ( Louise Bryant), Jack Nicholson (Eugene O’ Neill), Jerry Kosinski (Grigory Zinoviev), Paul Sorvino (Lois C. Fraina), and Maureen Stapleton (Emma Goldman)…to name a few. Now that you know some of the best actors in the business were in this movie will you keep reading this review?  I could keep writing for days, literally, this movie is so far beyond any other in terms of self reflexivity, social reflexivity, human nature, politics, establishments, and human interest.


A romantic shot of Jack Reed and Louise Bryant, two of the three members in a vicious love triangle, whoops, I’ve said to much.

A Toast

Firstly to the production value of the film.  Now, I am not to sure but there were over thirty locations used in this movie.  The majority of the interior shots were filmed in London, but the exteriors spread across five different countries; location scouting must have been a bitch. Production took one year; this was never planned, but there were hundreds of problems that hindered the completion of the original schedule, but in the end, the $30, 000, 000 film made by Paramount Pictures became a massive success.

The art design in this film is my next appraisal. For a film shot in 1980 and set in 1917, the audience does truly feel the entirety of living in that era and experiencing the life our actors so brilliantly portrayed. Costumes and props were chronologically perfect and certainly not sensationalized, which I appreciate.  The reality is heightened I suppose, but I don’t ever question any of the props or correctness of the mise-en-scene. The last bit of my toast has to be the superb acting. Beatty wanted the best in his film, he got the best in his film, and it paid off, easy as that. Something for you to know is that Beatty loves taking shots over and over, one scene had 😯 takes, literally, and it caused Maureen Stapleton to say… ‘are you out of your fucking mind?’. Did it work? Watch the film.

What haven’t I toasted to? Haha, a shit-load, the narrative, the accuracy, the effort Beatty puts into each and every single shot. What also separates this film from any other before it is the inclusion of eye witnesses at the time, over 30 witnesses, that worked around or were associated with the original Jack Reed.  These interviews are scattered throughout the film and are so effective in giving the audience a break from the scary world of fast-paced investigative journalism in the 1917.  The witnesses have such nourishing and genuine words to share, words you won’t hear anywhere else.


Beatty, after his powerful outburst at a gathering in Russia where he spoke to the Anti-Bolshevik’s in a hope that he may inspire them.



I suppose my verdict will be the same as any other logical thinking, free-minded liberal out there. The film is breathtaking, it is stimulating beyond comprehension, and covers a broad walk of genres, entertaining all sorts of people on its way. Obviously, don’t watch the movie if you don’t have a basic understanding of history, the Russian Revolution, human motif and love, or you will be part of the small group of people who find this film boring and confusing.  Do your part.


Drinking Game

Every time Jack and Louise fight, Have Two Fingers of the Drink in your Hand.

Whenever we change countries, Do a Shot You Have Never Tried Before; don’t be scared

Finally, Do a Jelly Shot: for every time the word ‘communism’ is used.


Thank you for reading my review.

About Byron Davel

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