John “Jack” Reed was an American journalist, and communist activist who wrote Ten Days that Shook the World, a first hand account of a crucial point in the Russian Revolution. His wife, Louise Bryant was a feminist writer, and journalist beside him. Reds is a three hour epic telling the true story of Jack, Louise and their part alongside the Russian Revolution.
The story begins when Jack (Warren Beatty) and Louise (Diane Keaton) first meet. She’s an artist trying to be a serious writer and married to another man. Louise leaves her husband to be with Jack, but he often leaves her alone to travel and cover political stories. While Jack is away, she has an affair with Eugene O’Neill (Jack Nicholson) a poet and playwright that would later win the Pulitzer Prize. Louise and Jack marry without ever mentioning the infidelity, but when it comes out later,he admits to his affairs as well. This causes Louise to leave. They don’t see each other again until Jack asks Louise to go to Russia with him to write about the revolution. He’s always supportive of her work, but is afraid that no one will take her seriously if she doesn’t go to and write about the most important thing happening at the moment. Their work within the revolution rekindles their relationship and inspires Jack to bring the ideals sweeping Russia back to the United States.
Edited in throughout the film are clips of interviews of those who remember the time period. Some are firsthand witnesses to the Russian Revolution, others knew, met or caught glimpses of Jack and Louise in real life. The very first moments of the film are the “witnesses” telling us a few things about Jack and Louise in their own words: Jack was a playboy. Louise was an exhibitionist. Their opinions and statements are often contradictory of each other. One says about the outbreak of WWI, “There was a lot of anti war rallying.” And the next person says, “There wasn’t anyone against the war.” These interviews bring a personal feel to the story and remind us that this piece of history wasn’t too long ago.
Unless you are really into political journalism, the Russian Revolution or a semi-biopic about the relationship between Jack Reed and Louise Bryant, this is probably not your film of choice. Three ours of those three topics, even with a little Jack Nicholson charm sprinkled in, is a very long film to get through. No doubt, it is a beautiful, thoughtful film with an engaging story mixed with history and love. But sadly, I was starting to get bored when the political talk began to take the main stage and by time it was time for some train exploding climatic action, I was just thinking about investing in a nice ushanka.
“You dream that if you discuss the revolution with a man before you go to bed with him, it’ll be missionary work rather than sex.”