Well, it looks like Mother Russia is about to get a little visit from good ol' Clyde Barrow... or Dick Tracy... or Bug Siegel. It would appear as though Warren Beatty is big on gangsters, or, as we saw with that one time he played a Senator, just overall crooks, so I guess that means that he was bound to play a Commie journalist at some point. Just the journalist part is corrupt enough, and with this film's being so bias, as well as all of those relationship fabrications, Beatty would probably know. I love how he denied up and down that he was hooking up with hot chicks everywhere, yet when it came down to it, the closest thing to a younger babe that he could bag was Annette Bening, which isn't to say that I'm calling her unattractive, I'm just thinking it loudly. Hey, as good looking as Mr. Beatty was, when you're in your 70s and still on the prowl for younger ladies, then you'll probably take whatever you can get. If you ask me, seeing as how he was in Russia, maybe he should have gunned for one of their legendary beautiful women, or at least Diane Keaton, because she, well... at least still looks better than Annette Bening. Well, the man may not have the best taste in women, but he certainly has a good taste in films to make, though also not the best, for although this film is one worth watching, it won't shake the world like the war it's centered around, no matter how much Beatty's bias pretty obviously wants it to.
Even with its mammoth 195 minute runtime, the film feels quite hurried in some spots, often in an effort to expend comfortable story flow for the sake of non-dramatic meditation on certain points. This taints the resonance of the film and brings more to the forefront the liberal overtones, which I find problematic on a personal level, being such a non-liberal, as well as problematic on a filmmaking level, for the overbearing delivery of the message feels discomforting in its bias forcefulness, while momentarily yet considerably harming the dramatic aspects of the film, due Beatty's glaring moments of extreme focus on message, rather than story depth. As I've said, he's certainly done a number on the story's flow, rendering it often hurried, as well as periodically dramatically uneven in focus, and with all of this rushing amidst a should-be epic, Beatty chooses to break even through the occasional piece of repetition and the consistent piece of slowness, exacerbated by a dry aura. All of these flaws of slowness and overwhelmingness in message delivery, as well as rapid-fire political mumbo-jumbo and such storytelling stylistic choices as the many interview breaks, all assemble into a single attribute that taints this film more than anything: High class pretension. I don't know if you get used to it after a while or if Beatty eventually wears himself out, but eitherway, the pretension isn't eternal, though there's no denying that for long periods, the film feels just so cocky and self-important, thus worsening the aforementioned missteps and leaving the film to run the risk of collapsing under the weight of its own ambition. Luckily, this film has quite the right to be so cocky about its quality, as it is still of some reasonably high quality. True, that quality goes betrayed by the film's overambition and shoddy storytelling, as well as not quite enough sweep to deliver consistently on its being an epic, yet there's still so much that bleeds through, and just thoroughly enough for the film to transcend dissatisfaction and come out as mostly winning from a general standpoint, while wholey winning from a stylistic standpoint.
Vittorio Storaro's cinematography is nothing if not captivating, giving the film a handsome depth in color to help in securing the film's gritty yet sophisticated tone when it's not simply stopping you cold with beautifully glowing, sweeping shots, many of which wouldn't be as effective as there are, were it not for the fine taste in location, production and all around art direction. As for such storytelling stylistic choices as the interviews, as I said, they slow down the film's dramatic aspects and plague it with a very matter-of-fact tone that supplements the film's self-righteousness, yet they still remain somewhat beneficial to the film, giving it character and some intrigue, whereas if the film went without it, it would perhaps suffer more than benefit, because where the faultiness of these storytelling stylistic choices are merely supplementary to already existing problems, their presence is a key factor in the film's intrigue. For that and a deal of other key positive aspects to the film, I feel as though credit is due to Warren Beatty, as director, who may be inspired to the point of being cocky and a tad overbearing in his messages, yet it's that inspiration that also keeps the film down to the earth and with enough resonance to sustain your attention as the film carries you through such fascinating subject matter, told through a mostly intriguing atmosphere. It's Warren Beatty, as an actor, who secures that intrigue, yet doesn't do it alone. Jack Nicholson comes and goes, yet every scene with him is predictably note-worthy, as he steals the show with his usual snakish charisma and moderate mystery, while other supporting performers add further texture to the film and its themes. Still, it's our leads that do the most for the film, whether it be the strong yet vulnerable and all around enthrallingly soulful Diane Keaton or the charismatic Beatty, whose graceful portrayal of Jack Reed's transformation from a relatively grounded yet sophisticated ambitious to a strong force of leadership, tainted by flawed political views, is an experience worth having. The film stands to have more sweep and consistency, both in story and intrigue, yet where it could have collapsed under the weigths of its faults, the film mostly uses some of these very problematic aspects to a generally commendable effect that supports the compellingness more than it harms it, rendering the film improvable yet very watchable.
All in all, some problematic storytelling stylistic choices and many a fault within the uneven, sometimes repetitious and often slow story structure, as well as overly palpable liberal overtones, taint the film with pretention and damage its overall effectiveness, yet that effectiveness remains intact, held together by a riveting visual style and mostly texturing storytelling techniques, sewn mostly comfortably together by inspired direction from Warren Beatty, who also joins Diane Keaton and a myriad of other acting talents in delivering compelling onscreen performances that play key roles in ultimately making "Reds" a generally fascinating and compelling portrait on the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of a primary player.
3/5 - Good