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Reagan Documentary Both Convincing and Melodramatic

  • Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
  • 2004 27 Oct
Reagan Documentary Both Convincing <i>and</i> Melodramatic

Release Date:  October 1, 2004 (in select markets)
Rating:  PG-13 (for disturbing images of violence)
Genre:  Education/General Interest Documentary
Run Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Director:  Stephen K. Bannon
Actors:  Ronald Reagan, Peter Schweizer, Ed Meese, Oleg Kalugin

Ronald Reagan once said, “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.”  This is the premise of “In the Face of Evil,” and it is stated with powerful authority in a film that heralds the former president as the one largely responsible for the downfall of communism.

According to this well-researched documentary full of news clips and war footage, there is a “Beast” – a political beast – and it comes under many disguises.  Bolshevism, Nazism, Fascism and Communism are just a few of its names, but it matters not what it is called, because “The Beast” will simply rise again in another form, at another time.  “The Beast” is evil, and it preys on innocent people and the freedoms of democracy.  And, like all evil, “The Beast” must be defeated by good leaders.

“The Beast” was birthed in the early part of the century, with Lenin, who “rose to power through the barrel of a gun.”  It continued through Stalin, who was directly or indirectly responsible for some 30 million deaths, Mussolini, and of course, Hitler.  Many men would not stand up to “The Beast,” and those who would – like Winston Churchill – were mocked and ridiculed as alarmists.  So it is only natural that a young actor from California who eventually became president was also maligned when he challenged “The Beast,” being labeled a “dunce” and a “cowboy.”

Thankfully, however, Reagan, did not live for the acclaim of men.  He lived for righteousness – and for the defeat of “The Beast.”  And thanks to his courage and tenacity, “The Beast” was defeated.  When it rises again, however, under another name, will there be someone to defeat it – someone as brave and tenacious?

Based on Peter Schweizer’s 2002 book, “Reagan’s War,” this documentary traces the roots of the communist movement, exploring its impact on international politics and heralding Reagan as the hero who snuffed it out.  It’s an excellent tour-de-force of the history of communism.  Unfortunately, although told from a well-needed conservative viewpoint, the film embraces extensive rhetoric in its arguments – not the least of which is the annoying, overstated use of the biblical metaphor.  

“From this fever swamp rose a beast … taking the form of a political messiah. It fed off man’s fears and prejudices,” the film states.  Such is its tone throughout, which gives the documentary a propagandistic feel.  It’s also hard to buy into the premise that Reagan single-handedly defeated communism – even though the film is certainly very enlightening when it comes to his determinism to do just that, as well as the administration’s obvious and most noteworthy successes, such as the removal of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

Evidently, the role that Reagan played toward these ends is far greater than most would have imagined, and this is where the film ultimately holds its own, with a second half that is far better than its first.  The narrator isn’t afraid to speak of Reagan’s political defeats, before he became president, or of his lack of success in Hollywood, where he never rose above a B-list actor.  Interestingly enough, the film also portrays Richard Nixon in a negative light, although it would appear (from tapes that are played in the film) that the reason for this is Nixon’s intense dislike of Reagan, as well as Nixon’s demonstrated propensity to embrace the lies that kept the Cold War raging.

Also, the film draws a somewhat subtle but persuasive parallel between Reagan and George W. Bush.  Although this is never stated, we see clips of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and footage of terrorist leaders.  In the closing moments, we are left with ominous warnings about what lies ahead, should we not embrace a leader with both Reagan’s insights and his ability to withstand great criticism, both at home and abroad, which will inevitably come when a man fights “the beast.”

All in all, “In the Face of Evil” will convince Reagan fans and conservatives about important but oft-neglected accomplishments of the Reagan administration, particularly as they pertain to his successful fight against communism.  It will also convince that same audience of the rightness of the current path we are on, in the war against terror.  As for anyone else, however, I fear that the film’s rhetoric is far too melodramatic.

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:   None.
  • Language/Profanity:  None.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  None.
  • Violence:   Archival footage of war scenes, including soldiers, dead bodies and concentration camp survivors.