Reagan's War in Word and Deed

Review by Michael Jacobson

Director:  Stephen K. Bannon
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Capital Films I
Features:  See Review
Length:  110 Minutes
Release Date:  May 24, 2005

"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid." - Ronald Reagan, 1981

Film ****

The world I grew up in was very different from the one we live in today.  I wonder if future generations will ever fully understand the threat of communism that hung over our heads every day of our lives, wondering if those who despised freedom would one day take the all out offensive against those who cherished liberty.  It was a world where Cold War was a reality of life between the United States and the Soviet Union; an enemy seemingly so large and powerful that our young minds couldn't comprehend that someday it would no longer exist.

It took an outsider, a free thinker, and a man with a very clear vision of moral certainties and unafraid to use them to bring about the fall of communism.  That man was Ronald Wilson Reagan.  In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed is the extraordinary and award-winning documentary that looks closely at our 40th President and finds a man who was fearless in his beliefs that good would triumph over evil, and also examines the world into which he came, and the one which he left behind.

It's a film that successfully argues that evil is always on the march, and evil, whatever form it takes, always has the same goals:  domination of state, suppression of individuals, and a willingness to recognize their visions at all costs.  Evil always fears religion, expression, and freedom because those provide oxygen against the suffocation they would bring.  There are always those who would seek to co-exist with evil, appease it, stay neutral about it and try not to provoke it.  But history has taught time and time again that failure to call evil by its right name and confront it only strengthens it.

I had spent a lifetime in fear of the strength and resolve of Russia when Reagan first took office.  The 70 year old former actor and California governor, however, brought a new approach to the Cold War:  "We fight it...and we win it."  He believed that in two presidential terms, he could do just that.  Even those of us who admired him and his confidence had to wonder if his dream was attainable in the face of reality.  But with faith in God, a strong sense of family, and a belief that no treaty could exist with an empire that held millions of people in virtual slavery, Reagan taught a valuable lesson to both us and our posterity:  evil is indeed powerless if the good are unafraid.

The strength of In the Face of Evil is not just what it has to say about Reagan, but about the world that preceded his presidency.  It's a history lesson dating all the way back to ancient Rome, where the great orator Cato recognized the threat the oppressive and liberty-hating nation of Carthage presented to their republic...he ended every speech with "Carthage must be destroyed."

Communist philosophy was very clear:  Lenin believed that if 3/4 of the world were eradicated, that would be fine, as long as the remaining quarter was communist.  They hated freedom, the power of the individual, the belief in God or anything higher than the state, and capitalism.  Their eyes were pointed toward the West even before the second World War, knowing that in order to make their way of life triumph, ours would have to be vanquished.

For decades, the Soviets marched practically unopposed in their efforts to spread their Marxist revolution to all corners of the globe.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led the United States so brilliantly against Hitler and Tojo, capitulated to Stalin at Yalta and handed over most of the recently liberated Eastern Europe to a dictator who would eventually kill some 30 million of his own people.  John F. Kennedy would take a hard line against Soviet dominance publicly, but privately offer deals that promoted peace temporarily, all the while confirming Khrushchev's belief that American resolve was weak.  Richard Nixon rode to the presidency with a strong anti-Communist rhetoric, but never quite followed through.  And Jimmy Carter's tenure saw unprecedented advances by the Soviets into the Middle East and Central America.

All the while, Ronald Reagan was making a name for himself as a strong public speaker and a believer that freedom should go on the offensive against communism.  His words weren't popular at ever stage of his career, and never to the elitists as much as to the middle classes, but they were true to his heart, and his message never wavered his entire life.  By the time the world stage was ready for him in 1980, few were surprised at how strong his stance against the Soviets had been in speech, but many were shocked to learn that once elected, he intended to follow through.

He didn't do it alone, to be sure...with powerful allies like the late Pope John Paul II and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Reagan was confident that 8 years would be enough to reduce the Soviet Union from a global threat to a historical footnote.  His critics thought him at best a dunce and at worst a dangerous madman, but Reagan never listened to them.  His convictions couldn't be bought, sold, or traded for a kind word from The New York Times.

He engaged in a military build-up the likes of which our nation had never seen.  Peaceniks like Senator Ted Kennedy were outraged and tried to fuel the fires of paranoia and fear against Reagan, predicting an all out nuclear war (and 20 years later, he's still batting a perfect .000 on his predictions), but Reagan's plan was clear and concise:  force the Soviet empire into an arms race they couldn't afford. 

Eventually, in order to pay for more weapons, Russia would have to quietly begin withdrawing forces from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central America.  All the while, the Reagan presidency quietly supported the Contras, Solidarity, and the Mujahadeen.  The Soviets would suffer embarrassing setbacks in all places.

And the end result was that it all worked, better than any critic or supporter of Reagan could have imagined.  His legacy?  The fall of the Berlin Wall.  The return of religious and economic freedoms to Russia.  The liberation of millions behind the Iron Curtain.  The emergence of former Soviet Block nations as formidable capitalist powers.  And for one young man who came of age during the Reagan years, the long elusive chance to sleep at night without nightmares of nuclear annihilation.

The world I grew up in was very different from the one we live in today...yet in some respects, not so different.  As it always has in the past, evil takes on newer and different forms, but carries on with the same destructive purpose.  There continue to be those who call for appeasement and co-existence, and those who look it in the eye and call it by the right name.  History has taught time and time again which philosophy leads to ruin and which leads to preserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

In the Face of Evil serves not only as a documentary of one of the greatest Americans who ever lived, but a sober reminder of those lessons of history...lessons we will either learn and refuse to allow to be erased, or lessons we will be forced to painfully live again.

Video ***

Being a historical documentary, this film is comprised of images recorded throughout the 20th century.  Naturally, some older footage of the World Wars and such look a little more aged and ragged than some of the footage from the modern interview segments.  I don't fault any of that; instead, I find the obvious contrasts lends to the authenticity of the periods of history up for contemplation.  The overall effort is solid and satisfactory.

Audio ***

For a documentary, the 5.1 soundtrack is surprisingly potent.  Spoken words balance nicely against music and footage from history, including that of battles and bombs, lending the disc some much appreciated dynamic range.  The .1 channel is almost constantly going throughout; again surprising, but certainly very welcome.

Features ***

I have to begin the extras review in a place I normally end...the trailers.  The theatrical trailer for this movie is one of THE best I've ever seen.  Reagan's words play over images of the challenges we've faced over the last century, up to and including 9/11, and the effect is truly staggering.  There are also two TV trailers included.

But perhaps most impressive is the inclusion of four of Reagan's most indelible speeches in their entirety.  They include the famous Goldwater campaign speech, the "Evil Empire" address, the "tear down this wall" cry that electrified the world, and his speech to the British House of Commons.  There is a montage of Reagan's quotes in text form played over video and music, a timeline of evil, and an introduction to the film by Edwin Meese.


In an age where not many true heroes emerge from the fold of politics, Ronald Reagan stands tall as arguably our greatest President save Abraham Lincoln.  His unflappable courage, conviction and faith in the face of his enemies domestic and foreign allowed him to change the face of the world for the better.  We may not see his like again, but In the Face of Evil is a superior documentary that preserves his legacy in film format for all generations, as well as the brutal lessons of history we can only pray we won't ever have to learn the hard way again.  This is an unequivocal must-see DVD.

For more info or to order your copy, go to www.inthefaceofevil.com

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