Nobody was going to stop Warren Beatty from making "Reds."
A 1981 docudrama that follows the lives of journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant, "Reds" is now streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu. Running nearly 3½ hours, "Reds" is a sweeping love story and obsessively detailed look at Reed, who chronicled the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia in the novel "Ten Days That Shook the World."
A movie about communist sympathizers set in 1916 to 1919 with that running time in the early '80s was a tough sell. Yet, Beatty, as idealistic and driven in real life as his depiction of Reed, was set on making "Reds" his best film.
Beatty had been interested in Reed's story since the late 1960s. After gaining box office success with "Heaven Can Wait," the actor, writer and director finally had the box office clout to make an epic drama. Made for $32 million (an expensive rate at the time), production of "Reds" was riddled with difficulties.
Reading behind-the-scenes accounts, it's a miracle "Reds" was ever made. There was a tumultuous relationship between Beatty and Diane Keaton (who plays Bryant). Beatty, a perfectionist, asked actors to do upwards of 50 takes, causing Keaton and Jack Nicholson (who plays playwright Eugene O'Neill) to break down. Beatty rewrote the script over and over with Trevor Griffiths, before bringing in another writer, Elaine May. By the end of the shoot, more than 60 editors had to parse over around 2.5 million feet of film.
The reception to "Reds" wasn't a disaster though; it won three Oscars, including a Best Director trophy for Beatty. Financially, it made a profit at the box office.
Beatty made his masterpiece, and it's full of beauty and ingenious moments. Instead of bogging down an already weighty story with more details, he shoots interviews with "The Witnesses," a group of men and women who had personal insight into the lives of Reed and Bryant.
Beatty balances those interviews with moments of humor, charm and grace. The script is full of memorable, catty dialogue as Nicholson, Beatty and Keaton spar with each other, fighting for love of each other and country. In between the love triangle and political drama, a cast including Maureen Stapleton, Paul Sorvino and Gene Hackman gives scenes a jolt of energy.
"Reds" is a movie about the old days that are often ignored, disregarded or, worse, made into a movie without any redeemable qualities. "Reds" is a reminder of grand filmmaking done well — a movie where Beatty, like Reed, seized the moment.
ALSO STREAMING THIS MONTH
ON AMAZON PRIME: "Chinatown," "Goldeneye," "Goldfinger," "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service," "One Child Nation," available now; "Anna and the Apocalypse," available Nov. 13; "Instant Family," "The Souvenir," available Nov. 14; "Creed 2," available Nov. 15; "The Report," available Nov. 29.
ON HBO GO: "Big," "Blindspotting," "The Darjeeling Limited," "Indignation," "The Kid Who Would Be King," "The Town," "True Lies," available now; "Little," available Nov. 16; "Us," 11/23; "Shazam!," available Nov. 30.
ON HULU: "A Simple Plan," "Denial," "I Heart Huckabees," "Magic Mike," "The Nightingale," "Overlord," "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," available now; "Veronica Mars," available Nov. 14; "Booksmart," "The Tomorrow Man," available Nov. 18; "Mike Wallace is Here," available Nov. 28.
ON NETFLIX: "The King," "How to be a Latin Lover," "Love Jones," "Burning Cane," available now; "Klaus," available Nov. 15; "Suffragette," available Nov. 16; "The Irishman," available Nov. 27.