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A faithful adaptation of the excellent book, "Every Knee Shall
which documented the tragedy of the Ruby Ridge incident. The
half of the movie introduces the Weaver family and friends and
the scene for the dramatic, heartbreaking confrontation in the
half. Halfway through, one is made to feel glad the Weavers are
your neighbor. But by the end one is overwhelmed by the
injustice the Weavers suffer at the hands of the Federal
Excellent acting helps portray the Weavers as real human
with faults and virtues instead of as devil or martyr cardboard
The Ruby Ridge incident went largely unnoticed by the American Public until the exact same team of FBI agents were involved in the burndown of Waco a mere eight months later. This film does an excellent job of introducing the complex situation at Ruby Ridge to anyone who is still unaware of what happened there.
RUBY RIDGE: AN American TRAGEDY
A CBS Television Mini-Series
Sunday 19 May and Tuesday 21 May, 1996
The movie Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy is perhaps the most accessible summary of this case but it is not perfect: but, any attempt to present the events spread over a 1983-1992 time frame is going to be inadequate.
The Weavers were far from perfect people, but the reaction to the Weavers by federal law enforcement snowballed into an out-of-control situation that reflected badly on every agency involved.
Randall Weaver was caught up in a BATF investigation of his buddy, Frank Kumnick ("Tony Vickers" in the movie). After four years of BATF informant Gus Magisono presenting himself as a gun runner for a biker gang, Weaver agreed to make two illegal weapons in October of 1989.
In November 1989, BATF Agent handler Herb Byerly ("Burt Yeager") decided Kumnick was all talk and Weaver was just a hanger on. Byerly and Magisono intended to use Weaver to introduce Magisono to Chuck Howarth, move their investigation to Montana and drop Kumnick and Weaver. FBI informant Rico Valentino warned Weaver to avoid BATF informant Magisono. (Can we spell Turf War?) When Magisono asked Weaver to take him to meet Howarth, Weaver told Magisono people were saying he was a snitch and Weaver was not taking him anywhere. Byerly instructed Magisono to have no further contact with Weaver.
In June 1990, at a motel restaurant near town, Byerly and Gunderson approached Weaver with a deal to go undercover or go to jail. Weaver flipped Byerly's card in his face and told him where to go. Byerly filed an exaggerated report against Weaver alleging Weaver was a suspected bank robber. Beyerly had run a background check before approaching Weaver and knew Weaver did not have a police record.
Weaver was arrested and released with a 19 January 1991 court date. Pre-trial services sent Weaver a notice the hearing was moved to 20 March. The new date was actually 20 February; a fugitive warrant was issued when Weaver missed the hearing. Then a grand jury indictment was issued on 14 March before Weaver had a chance to appear in court on 20 March. This is complicated and is glossed over in the movie.
Marshal David Hunt ("Brian Jackson") was caught between a rock (US Attorney Ron Howen ("Matthew Duncan")) and a hard place (Vicki Weaver). The movie shows some of Hunt's problems, but does not explore the tangled obstacles raised by Howen.
In October 1991, Hunt was informed by the local FBI that both the BATF and the US Attorney's Office had exaggerated Weaver's connections to the white supremacists. Hunt developed a surrender deal that needed the signature of Ron Howen: Howen refused the deal insisting on unconditional surrender. Vicki refused to let Randy surrender without a written guarantee that she would keep custody of their kids.
Then the Weaver case was picked up by the Spokane newspaper and repeated by Chicago Tribune, New York Times, and others. This pressured the US Marshal Service HQ to start Operation: Northern Exposure.
The first half of the TV movie ends as the Weaver men are about to encounter three surveillance marshals in the forest at a fork in the trail called the "Y". The shooting at the "Y", the Ruby Ridge Siege, the Ruby Creek Vigil and Protest, and the Weaver-Harris Trial occupy the last half of the movie. At this point in real life, the Frank Kumnick ("Tony Vickers") character is out of the picture, and Weaver's buddy Bill Grider and wife Judy are represented by the movie characters "Tony Vickers" and his wife "Janice" which is why "Janice" pops up out of nowhere in the last half. Artistic license.
The shoot-out at the "Y" in the second half is a lot easier to follow in the movie than the real life incident: the real "Y" was in a dense Northwest rain forest; the reel "Y" is in California pine woods. As US Marshal Larry Cooper testified at the trial, there were so many things compressed into ninety seconds, it was hard to remember what happened first. Sammy Weaver, his dog Striker and US Marshal Bill Deagan ("Danny Barnett") were dead by the time the fateful fourteen shots were fired.
The reports by Dave Hunt ("Brian Jackson") to US Marshal Service Crisis Center got garbled by the time the info was passed by USMS HQ to FBI HQ to the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. The HRT Commander believed the gunfire lasted all afternoon into the night. Hunt's reports in the Crisis Center Log recorded several times that the last gunshots were heard at 11:15 am that morning. The FBI unfairly blamed the Idaho marshals for the miscommunication when it was a HQ USMS and FBI problem.
To sum up within 1000 words, Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy is not a documentary but is a fair but flawed summation of the case. The movie does not candycoat either the Weavers or the government. If anything, it paints everyone dirty.
Except for the Weavers, Kevin Harris, Bo Gritz, Gerry Spence and Paul Harvey, all the other character names are fictitious including Vicki's family.
Reel names (real names): USMS Ross Jones (Duke Smith), FBI HRT Cmdr Earl Martens (Dick Rogers), FBI Richard Atwood (Danny Coulson), FBI SAC Doug Wilkes (Eugene Glenn), FBI Dwight Stanfield (Fred Lanceley), Roy and Eve Marks (Wayne and Ruth not-Marks), FBI Ken Yamasaki (Lon Horiuchi), Judge Andrew Stratton (Judge Edward Lodge),
This is the true story of the "attack" of Ruby Ridge. Both sides of the story are told in amazing detail but after everything is said and done you will definitely see who the bad guys really are. All together 3 people are murdered and 1 dog is shot and killed, for one very stupid reason! Just so you know the great and powerful United States Government paid the Weaver family $3,200,000.00 in damages for what the Government did wrong.
I don't normally express my views or opinions about fact based movies, but
the subject matter of this particular film "The Siege at Ruby Ridge" moved
me. Having not paid attention to the events of Ruby Ridge at the time, to
my shame, I was curious enough on a Sunday afternoon to watch the movie. At
the end of the film I was convinced that either the writers and producers
were overly biased towards the Weaver family and were attempting to stir up
the general population with their interpretation of the siege, or, and more
disturbing, the movie was a true representation. After a few hours of
research I was able to conclude that the scenes accurately portrayed events
with a minimal amount of poetic license. The actors were emotional and
convincing and I grieved with them.
I count myself as among the conservative, (mostly) sheltered, white collar Americans, comfortable in the daily concept of living in a free democracy, protected by our constitution, and generally content with life. A highly emotional, fact based movie like this is powerful enough in it's content to shatter that illusion. And while I choose to believe that the events outlined in the movie were the sad tragic results of a huge (but hopefully unintentional) error in judgment by an imperfect government, the concern that it might not have been...lingers.....
Someone said this was "allegedly true". Scratch the allegedly. It happened.I saw the news reports. This movie recreates the events at Ruby Ridge in exacting detail. Mistakes were made on both sides,and William Degan,Sam Weaver and Vicki Weaver paid the price. The cast is excellent,particularly Laura Dern,Randy Quaid,Kirsten Dunst,GW Bailey, Diane Ladd,Gary Graham,Nicholas Pryor,Bob Gunton,Tracy Griffith and Joe Don Baker.Well directed and well written. I do not agree with the Weaver's views but this story needed to be told.
Very few people even remember Ruby Ridge, let alone what occurred and
this just might be the greatest tragedy of all. But Ruby Ridge was a
watershed. It paved the way for government bureaucrats at ATF and the
FBI to violently react to American citizens who failed to pay proper
homage. It revealed the arrogance of government's non-elected officials
and their contempt for "non-compliant" Americans.
My wife, a former supervisor at the US Department of Justice was riveted to the screen as she watched this DVD. On several occasions, she repeated "this is just the way they are!" For the life of me, I don't understand why this unfolding drama was given such a low rating. Maybe most people are in denial over what happens when Americans don't bow to authority or live according to "approved" rules. Whatever the reason, it's a travesty to this excellent movie and a tragedy for democracy.
As someone who has spent some twenty years in uniform as a Field Grade Officer and as an individual who has known many "Feds," I can tell you that this film captured their incompetence and duplicitous arrogance to perfection.
Only "Waco, The Rules of Engagement," has managed to better clarify the threat we all face. It comes from unaccountable unelected Federal civil servant bureaucrats who feel that they are not just above the law, but but hold the power of life and death over citizens who threaten their sense of self-importance.
"The Siege at Ruby Ridge," is a must see.
The following review reveals parts of the plot.
This movie showed that federal agents had what it took to shoot a 14-year-old boy in the back, gun down his pet dog, and snipe a woman holding a baby. The incident should sow "dissent" not the movie. If you can watch an incident like Ruby Ridge occur and still feel the system is great than you better take a good look at yourself.
Although Mr. Weaver and his family were extremists in some of their beliefs, they were and those of them that are still alive are still American citizens. And as such, they have certain inalienable rights. Rights wrongfully denied to them, such as trial by jury not a government death squad. In both real event and the movie, the federal agents illegally altered the rules of engagement and basically tried to avoid negotiations until they had to negotiate. They employed a shoot first and well there were no questions later. Being told that they "can and should shoot on sight any armed adult". There was no distinction made between armed adults walking around or armed adults pointing guns and federal agents. Just shoot on sight any armed adult.
However in the end justice was partly done in that Mr. Weaver and his friend were acquitted. Mr. weaver received roughly 3 million dollars in a settlement with the government. But those trigger-happy federal agents were never brought to justice.
Remember that federal agents have extensively more training when compared to local and state law enforcement agents. And as seen in the movie, federal not state or local law enforcement agents committed these heinous and atrocious acts. People with high levels of training, and they claim that they aren't to blame. They wrongfully and unconstitutionally altered rules of engagement. In essence declaring open season and giving their agents hunting licenses.
This movie or more so the criminal act committed by the government against the weavers shows/showed how much the government respects/ed its citizens and their alleged rights.
To my everlasting embarrassment as an American citizen, the stark
injustice of the Ruby Ridge Incident somehow initially slipped by me.
For some reason, it took the Waco Massacre to open my eyes and make me
realize that our suddenly and scarily militarized police agencies--both
federal and local--had but one enemy, and it was us. Although this
progression has continued through the tragedy of 9/11, which just
happened to give our legislators the perfect excuse to pass laws that
shredded our inalienable Constitutional protections, a disappointingly
small number of citizens seemed to have grasped what is going on.
That's why although the albeit imperfect "Siege of Ruby Ridge" is far from a great historical drama, it may well be an important one. If it smacks just a handful of still-clueless citizens over the head, it will be worth people's time.
I was actually surprised at how much this film got right. Certainly it was true that Vicki Weaver was the driving force behind the apocalyptic beliefs in the family. Despite his portrayal in the movie, Randy Weaver was far from a dim, subservient religious follower of Vicki, and he would not leave the major decisions regarding his family's fate to his traumatized young daughter. My main complaint would be the over-the-top portrayal of the Weaver family as obnoxious, bible-thumping, jackbooted Neo-NAZI wingnuts. Sharpening their tongues in preparation to lie about the Davidians and David Koresh, the national media did their best to simply repeat all federal agency statements that portrayed the Weavers as just the kind of neighborhood family that needs to be lined up and shot. The Weavers were far from the typical American family, but they were American citizens with the right to be left alone--a fact which the media conveniently chose to ignore.
There is a documentary film about this incident that centers on a grown-up and very appealing Rachael Weaver, along with commentary from the still irascible Randy, called "Legend of Ruby Ridge." Hearing Rachael fondly reminisce about her childhood on that mountain (which she now owns), makes the movie version seem downright ludicrous.
I found this film engrossing but distasteful. No, I don't believe this
movie was "made to turn people against the system" and yes, it was a true
story but the networks turned it into the 'Movie of the Week", so how much
is true and how much is drama is debatable.
The extremes that both the Weavers and the FBI go to in order to make their points and accomplish their missions are unrealistic. The Weavers slowly turn from nice folks--maybe a little fanatical, to guntoting, rabid, white separatists who will greet you with a bullet between the eyes rather than a friendly smile. What was in the air they were breathing in those Idaho mountains? At one point they were model neighbors and at another, they were cussing and picketing their them with their fledgling Nazi kids.
The judicial system is realistic in the beauracratic way of initially handling Weaver's gun charge including the entrapment issue, yet things go horribly wrong in the way things are handled during the seige. How many feds does it take to get one guy off a mountain?
I don't think this movie did either side any justice. The script could have been better written although good work from Quaid, Dern and Dunst. That alone made the film passable.
I don't think this film succeeds in turning anyone against the system--at least no one who is educated enough to understand the way that system works.
At first, I did not want to sit through this movie. I thought that it was going to be a completely religious movie from beginning to end. I had no idea what was in store. I didn't remember any of the siege itself. I was 15 when it happened. So I went to the internet and looked it up. It was indeed a true story. One that definately should have been told. True, I didnt want to sit through 4 hours of the movie, but it really was worth it. I would definately recommend it to friends to see!
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