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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Man and myth

Author: paul2001sw-1 ( from Saffron Walden, UK
26 March 2011

Ronald Reagan has become such a mythologised figure by the American right that it's hard for a documentary to present a balanced view. Moreover, Americans in general tend to treat their Presidents with a respect that is wholly absent from British politics; although Eugene Jarecki's documentary is actually not bad in challenging the myths (both that everything Reagan did was good, and also that he did everything that has been attributed to him), in it's tone, it can't help but add to them. In fact, it's pretty soft on his early years, and fails to mention that as Governor of California, his trick was really to talk like a conservative but to spend like only liberals were supposed to (although it concedes the same point with regard to his subsequent presidency). On the presidency itself, Jarecki's film delivers a harder verdict, as the critics are far more precise than the admirers, who can only defend Reagan through vague eulogy. It's a bit odd, however, that the final verdict on Reagan's years, and American society, is given by a former military officer who seems no more entitled to pass the definitive opinion than any of the rest of us. One interesting thing for me was to see that Reagan was, at his peak, a genuinely accomplished performer - dismissed as senile by his enemies perhaps before he truly was, he comes across as shrewder than popular perception allows, even if one can dispute the value of his legacy.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The second half is frustrating.

Author: M S from United States
26 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

You can get a good idea of the film from the other reviews. If you are a liberal or progressive, you'll think it's a good film. If you're conservative and think Reagan did a lot of good while president, you will be disappointed.

The first half is good. The film does a good job with his childhood and early years. It is fair regarding his acting career and how he became a GE spokesman when his acting career faded.

(By the way, why do leftist posters call him a corporate shill? Many of their lefty media heroes promote for corporations.)

The second half is frustrating. We get a taste here and there of the good things that Reagan did, interspersed among a catalog of the supposedly bad things.

His probable cooperation with the FBI regarding communists in Hollywood gets the second part rolling. Then his governorship in California gets brief coverage and most of that coverage is negative.

On to the reason he's the subject of a documentary: his presidency. This section could have been longer as it should be the main part, but perhaps it didn't need to be any longer than it takes to thoroughly cover his assassination attempt, "Star Wars", and Iran-Contra.

We hear several Keynesian economists who say that Reagan's policies were bad for the country, and they actually blame Reagan for the problems we have now. As the film came out in 2011 I guess they prefer to ignore the booming 1980s and 1990s, when the era of big government was supposedly over.

Reagan is blamed for deficits caused by increases in defense spending and tax cuts. Not discussed is that non-defense spending skyrocketed and that the Dem congresses always spent more than Reagan budgeted for. Also not discussed is that, after taxes were cut, GDP growth and tax revenues did indeed increase. If you are hoping for a Hayek view for balance you will be disappointed.

By the end, conservatives will regret watching. They'll wonder why so little discussion of the many good things that happened during his presidency. They'll wonder why a dramatic economic recovery and major foreign policy achievements get shortchanged. They'll wonder why the contrast between the 1970s and 1980s is skipped.

The film ends with criticism that Reagan didn't do enough when the new disease AIDS took off in the homosexual community.

Other reviewers praise the "objectivity" but that is because their liberal point of view is dominant throughout the second half.


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16 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

A brilliant documentary on the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Author: merrywood from Connecticut
17 February 2011

A friend in Paris, France, and fellow filmmaker sent me a copy of this new Reagan documentary. Not a great fan of Reagan or his presidency, I set it aside.

My friend persisted and pushed me to watch it. I finally did. The film begins with the death of Ronald Reagan after an extended bout with Alzheimer's disease. Then, it returns to his life, starting with his childhood and covering every step of his career from radio announcer to actor to union president and on to his dazzling political career, one that was not easy any step along the way.

It is one of the most extraordinary documentaries I have ever seen, the revelation is not in the massive amount of data packed into this film (Michael Moore, take note, please) but its beautifully organized objectivity and most of all, its subtext, that makes a powerful statement about the impact, often world-changing, of the power of the illusion of ideas. This illusion can create and destroy quickly and with great and lasting power.

It is recommended not just to those interested in a fine example of documentary filmmaking but for historians interested in objectivity, especially so in the life of the 40th president of the United States.

As an important aside, I have had my feelings about Ron Reagan, Jr. (the president's son, who works in the media) confirmed… He is a bright, deep thinker who doubtless transcends his own father's intellect and contact with humanity.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Incisive and Balanced

Author: Al Rodbell from Carlsbad CA
7 June 2015

I watched this on Link TV, a liberal cable channel specializing in those such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, so I expected it to be scathing. It certainly stripped away many illusions, but while strongly critical the results of trickle down, and the limits of his grasp of complexity of issues; it defined his positions fairly.

He did evolve from a New Deal Democrat, leading his Actors Union against management, but also was viscerally opposed to global Marxism, and the social revolution of the 1960s.

The insights of Morris, his official biographer for almost a decade, along with Cannon who wrote several biographies including when he was Governor, provide special scholarly insight.

The current Republican conservatives forget that he pass what was an actual amnesty for illegal-undocumented immigrants, and actually increased both government spending and deficits.

It could be that his hawkish policies early on allowed him more latitude to connect with someone eager to wind down the cold war, Michel Gorbechev. History doesn't allow for controlled experiments so we can't re-run events with a different leader at the helm.

I commend this documentary for those who lived through the era, but events have become hazy.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Deceitful biography

Author: vcbaker-37525 from Manhattan, Kansas
9 July 2015

The first half of "Reagan" is fairly objective, to disguise the fact that this is simply another predictable hit-piece on Reagan, and on conservatism in general.

All of the seemingly positive narrators in the first half turn out to be very anti-Reagan in the second half.

If the program had ended as it began, with a positive characterization of Reagan, you could almost (but not quite) argue that it was fair. Instead, the second half is obviously there to tear down every positive image of Reagan that is slyly portrayed in the first half. The first half is only there to help tear down every positive image ("myth") about Reagan, in the second half.

Pick any Democratic president of the past 100 years--Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, Roosevelt, or even Carter, and you cannot imagine any media outlet producing a negative hit piece like this. But you expect it when the subject is a Republican president (so you should not be surprised or disappointed).

The best endorsement of Reagan's success, popularity, and achievements is the left's tireless and relentless effort, even after his death, to destroy him.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Very Good Look at the Actor and President

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
6 June 2013

Reagan (2011)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Very good HBO documentary from director Eugene Jarecki takes a look at the life and career of Ronald Reagan. The documentary follows him from his childhood all the way up to his death and covers just about everything one could hope for. This includes his time in Hollywood, his days as the leader of SAG, his cooperate salesman job, his getting into politics and of course his run for President of the United States. I think whether you love or hate Reagan, this documentary will leave you impressed even though I did find a few strange things in it. The film opens up talking about how wonderful Reagan was and it really makes you think that you're about to see some love feast for him. The documentary is pretty much this until the final twenty-minutes when it turns to show some of the negative things that Reagan did and this here caught me off guard because of how "kind" the film was being to him. I actually thought it was good that some of the other side got to question some of the things that the President did because it makes the film seem a lot more even. The majority of the running time takes a look at Reagan's eight years in the office as we see his popularity rise but then take a hit on the controversial hostage situation that he got into. We also see the assassination attempt as well as hearing some great stories about what he was up to after his acting career ended and his term in office began.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Falsehoods Abound

Author: zaniac-67268 from Boondocks
6 June 2015

This documentary was shown with a leftist viewpoint. Since I was born in 1949 and lived through 12 presidents I have more knowledge gained through experience than those who read about things. The country almost went bust during Carter's administration due to his fiscal policies and lack of respect throughout the world. President Reagan brought back the United States with his tax policies and strong defense policy. The words that basically said it all was that if you tax the workers and give money to those who don't work, people won't work. That is exactly what we've created today with free health care, free housing and free food. Granted, the War On Drugs was a failure just as the War On Poverty was as is the War On Terror. All in all, Reagan was a great leader of the United States. He was at least as good as Eisenhower. The country flourished during their presidencies.

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12 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Typical Left-Wing Bias

Author: jmm124567 from United States
20 November 2012

This film is very bias! It was created by a liberal filmmaker who is trying to make Reagan look horrible. It's a terrible documentary.

It skips around things. The film looks at a couple things Reagan did bad as president and it does not even look at all his success he had especially with the economy in fact it actually skews the facts and misleads people a lot. For example: I noticed towards the end of the documentary that there is footage put in there of a news reporter saying something like "7 million more Americans are living in poverty since Reagan took office."

Look up the official poverty rate numbers and you'll see when Reagan took office the poverty rate was at 14%. The next year it was at 15.2% due to the bad recession that had started right before Reagan took office and the filmmaker never even mentions the recession. When Reagan left office the poverty rate was at 13%.

So the poverty rate was at 14% went up to 15.2% and was at 13% when Reagan left office. The filmmaker clearly adds in the news report trying to skew facts making it look like the economy failed under Reagan. IT IS VERY MISLEADING TO PEOPLE.

You should be ashamed of yourself Eugene Jarecki. You are not a respectable filmmaker! There is much more I can call you out on but don't fell like typing anymore.

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4 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

The Vidiot Reviews...

Author: capone666 from Canada
12 April 2012


The reason an actor was chosen to assume the most powerful position in the free world was because he would work for scale.

Which explains why the first thespian president featured in this documentary was also a corporate shill.

Through interviews with friends, family and other politicians, the 40th President of the United States is placed under a microscope to examine the events that lead the charismatic actor to become Commander and Chief.

From his early days as a liberal, to his compliance with anti-communism, and his spokesperson position with General Electric, Reagan's power to rouse patriotism set the stage for the actor's starring role.

From the Cold War, to the Berlin Wall, this HBO documentary recollects, reveres and rips apart Reagan's most memorable moments in office.

Incidentally, the best thing about being a movie star president is that your stunt double takes all of the assassination bullets for you. (Green Light)

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7 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Rich and historical behind the scenes look at the life of a political legend. Love him or hate him Ronald was a cultural icon.

Author: Danny Blankenship from Petersburg, Virginia
10 February 2011

To mark the 100th birthday of President Reagan HBO just recently showed a doc titled "Reagan" and I must say director Eugene Jarecki made the film rich and moving with footage from the entire life of Ronald both personal and political. The film chronicles from his 1911 birth till his 2004 death from Alzheimer's. Interesting is seeing behind the scenes footage from his early days as an actor, and plenty of important footage from his two terms as the 40th U.S. president is shown.

This doc is very educational as many may not know that Reagan as an actor was the SAG president and later a spokesperson for GE and this was a turning point for his politics from liberal democrat to conservative republican. As Ronald saw at GE how company profits worked making him pro business with trickled down economics and with Hollywood's liberal support of communism he broke away from that crowd becoming very anti communist and more of a war hawk.

After then you see how his good looks, and success of being a well known actor and speaking voice and charisma lead him to becoming California's governor he clearly was a man with the will power and spunk to accomplish he had all the makings of a strong leader. Which would later propel him into the presidency.

So in 1980 he crushed and beat Jimmy Carter by a landslide in the election it certainly was a new era in politics. Especially with the religious right shaping him, America, and the republican party with moral values. Clearly he was a man who cared about people.

During the doc you aside from the clips and footage you hear from historians, staff members, journalists, and biographers and family members who tell what an influence that second wife Nancy was on his presidency and life. And many point out Ronald's negatives like economists and international advisers mention Reagan's blunders of massive tax cuts which grew deficits during the 80's with high unemployment and telling was the Iran contra scandal which almost rocked his second term. So Ronnie wasn't a perfect man as he during his second term also ignored the AIDS crisis and fought hard against labor unions.

Love him or hate him Ronald Reagan will go down as a memorable icon both culturally and politically a leader who had a lasting impact. He was a man of many faces salesman,actor, politician, leader, religious man and controversial yet thru it all his legacy shines and last in the sunset sea to shining sea.

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