In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War - DVD review

Telling a biographical story of leadership which is both instructive and entertaining is no easy task.  The recent film, now on DVD,  In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed, does this well.  The film captures the essence of Ronald Reagan, the context of his actions, the resulting impact on the world, and does so in a riveting presentation. Reagan's vision, leadership and courage were able to defeat the spread of Soviet Communism, certainly an epic tale. This film lives up to its subject matter, and won the 2004 Liberty Film Festival award for best documentary. It deserves more attention than it has gotten to date.

In order to tell the story the filmmakers deftly used every available tool in their box.  In addition to interviews with key members of the Reagan administration, they also interviewed former high level officials of the Soviet Union.   A powerful soundtrack, deftly selected and edited, ties together the dramatic archival footage and the narration into a powerful presentation.

To set the stage for the Reagan—Soviet confrontation, the movie begins by interweaving two parallel threads.  The first is a reminder that the struggle between freedom and tyranny is as old as civilization.  The second shows Reagan's early years, including his life—changing confrontation with Communists vying for control of Hollywood.

The film opens with the struggle between the Roman Republic and the aggressor at that time, Carthage.   From there it moves into the 20th century, the most brutal in recorded history, and shows how the century was shaped by struggles against the various 'isms' — Fascism, Militarism, Nazism and Communism.  Common to each of these movements was the supremacy of the state at the expense of the individual.  At first, leaders attempted to make appease and make an accommodation with these aggressors.  An example of this approach is the 1938 treaty with Hitler, which was supposed to have secured 'peace in our time.'  Those who opposed the deals, such as Winston Churchill, were labeled warmongers.  However, they only delayed the need to confront these suppressors of freedom. 

Following World War Two, the film graphically shows the Soviet Union as one of the most brutal regimes in history, and its emergence as the West's principal rival.  The film surveys the emergence of the Cold War from Winston Churchill's Iron Curtin speech to the various policy approaches, containment, peaceful co—existence and detente undertaken by the Unites States to accommodate with the Soviets.  The film also reveals how the Soviet Union's secret plan which nearly succeeded to leap ahead of the United States as a military power. 

The intertwining story of the developmental years of Ronald Reagan starts with his days in film, radio and television.  The film shows that the early pioneers in Hollywood, including the founders of Reagan's main studio, Warner Brothers, escaped their home countries to produce films in a free society.  Even though the environment of Hollywood was created by filmmakers who cherished freedom, the workers unions in Hollywood were 'under attack' by Communists.  We see how, as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan learned first hand about Communism. 

It was the metaphorical fire of the strikes and negotiations that solidified and tempered his determination to stop Communism.  Based on this new determination, Reagan entered politics, first as a political commentator, then Governor of California, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination in 1976, and ultimately President of the United States.

When Reagan became President in 1981, it appeared the Soviet Union was succeeding in its plan to overtake the United States as military power.  The Soviets were boldly challenging the US in Afghanistan, Africa and Central America.  The America seen by many as obviously a second rate power. If 'students' in Iran were holding Americans hostage and the military had 'failed' in its attempt to rescue them, then no other conclusion was possible to them. The American economy was in the doldrums, plagued by energy shortages, high unemployment, at the verge of runaway inflation, and in a general malaise. 

Reagan set into motion a set of initiatives to revitalize the economy, restore the American spirit and ultimately defeat the Soviet Union.  Unlike his predecessors who sought to accommodate and improve relations with the Soviets, Reagan had a much different goal for his Soviet policy, 'We win, they lose.'

The film traces the bold moves that President Reagan and his team put into motion to bring this vision to reality.  Thanks to the recent declassification of secret archives, we now know the comprehensiveness of Reagan's strategy to defeat the Soviets. Our strategy included a war of actions, material, ideals and money.

These initiatives were very controversial at home and abroad and threatened to make Reagan a one term President.  He was labeled a warmonger and was attacked as being an 'amiable dunce.' However, these initiatives also undermined the Soviet's fragile economy and forced them to back away from their bold plans.  Ultimately, it led to collapse of the system, tossing it into the 'ash heap of history' —— just as Reagan predicted had boldly predicted and few believed.  The film paints such a comprehensive and detailed picture of how Reagan made it possible for the Cold War to end without firing a shot.

'I did not know that' is a common audience reaction after seeing the film. This story has not been told or heard often enough.

As with most DVDs, this one has bonus features, but in this case they are truly a bonus and alone are worth the price as the disc.  Included are a selection of Reagan quotes plus four of his most important speeches on the Soviet Union.  The speech before the British Parliament in which Reagan predicted that communism would end up on the 'ash heap' of history, the 'evil empire' speech, the 'tear down this wall' speech and 'A Time for Choosing' speech.  This last speech was delivered in support Barry Goldwater's Presidential campaign in the 1964 —— and is known by students of Reagan as The Speech. In it we first glimpse his vision, a vision which was to liberate much of humanity without firing a shot.

To learn more about this film visit its website here.

James A. Leggette, Ph.D. is an economist and talk radio host.  Michael W. Funk, a former Congressional Fellow, is currently an executive in the telecommunications industry.  They are collaborating on a book on Ronald Reagan's economic legacy.

Telling a biographical story of leadership which is both instructive and entertaining is no easy task.  The recent film, now on DVD,  In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed, does this well.  The film captures the essence of Ronald Reagan, the context of his actions, the resulting impact on the world, and does so in a riveting presentation. Reagan's vision, leadership and courage were able to defeat the spread of Soviet Communism, certainly an epic tale. This film lives up to its subject matter, and won the 2004 Liberty Film Festival award for best documentary. It deserves more attention than it has gotten to date.

In order to tell the story the filmmakers deftly used every available tool in their box.  In addition to interviews with key members of the Reagan administration, they also interviewed former high level officials of the Soviet Union.   A powerful soundtrack, deftly selected and edited, ties together the dramatic archival footage and the narration into a powerful presentation.

To set the stage for the Reagan—Soviet confrontation, the movie begins by interweaving two parallel threads.  The first is a reminder that the struggle between freedom and tyranny is as old as civilization.  The second shows Reagan's early years, including his life—changing confrontation with Communists vying for control of Hollywood.

The film opens with the struggle between the Roman Republic and the aggressor at that time, Carthage.   From there it moves into the 20th century, the most brutal in recorded history, and shows how the century was shaped by struggles against the various 'isms' — Fascism, Militarism, Nazism and Communism.  Common to each of these movements was the supremacy of the state at the expense of the individual.  At first, leaders attempted to make appease and make an accommodation with these aggressors.  An example of this approach is the 1938 treaty with Hitler, which was supposed to have secured 'peace in our time.'  Those who opposed the deals, such as Winston Churchill, were labeled warmongers.  However, they only delayed the need to confront these suppressors of freedom. 

Following World War Two, the film graphically shows the Soviet Union as one of the most brutal regimes in history, and its emergence as the West's principal rival.  The film surveys the emergence of the Cold War from Winston Churchill's Iron Curtin speech to the various policy approaches, containment, peaceful co—existence and detente undertaken by the Unites States to accommodate with the Soviets.  The film also reveals how the Soviet Union's secret plan which nearly succeeded to leap ahead of the United States as a military power. 

The intertwining story of the developmental years of Ronald Reagan starts with his days in film, radio and television.  The film shows that the early pioneers in Hollywood, including the founders of Reagan's main studio, Warner Brothers, escaped their home countries to produce films in a free society.  Even though the environment of Hollywood was created by filmmakers who cherished freedom, the workers unions in Hollywood were 'under attack' by Communists.  We see how, as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan learned first hand about Communism. 

It was the metaphorical fire of the strikes and negotiations that solidified and tempered his determination to stop Communism.  Based on this new determination, Reagan entered politics, first as a political commentator, then Governor of California, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination in 1976, and ultimately President of the United States.

When Reagan became President in 1981, it appeared the Soviet Union was succeeding in its plan to overtake the United States as military power.  The Soviets were boldly challenging the US in Afghanistan, Africa and Central America.  The America seen by many as obviously a second rate power. If 'students' in Iran were holding Americans hostage and the military had 'failed' in its attempt to rescue them, then no other conclusion was possible to them. The American economy was in the doldrums, plagued by energy shortages, high unemployment, at the verge of runaway inflation, and in a general malaise. 

Reagan set into motion a set of initiatives to revitalize the economy, restore the American spirit and ultimately defeat the Soviet Union.  Unlike his predecessors who sought to accommodate and improve relations with the Soviets, Reagan had a much different goal for his Soviet policy, 'We win, they lose.'

The film traces the bold moves that President Reagan and his team put into motion to bring this vision to reality.  Thanks to the recent declassification of secret archives, we now know the comprehensiveness of Reagan's strategy to defeat the Soviets. Our strategy included a war of actions, material, ideals and money.

These initiatives were very controversial at home and abroad and threatened to make Reagan a one term President.  He was labeled a warmonger and was attacked as being an 'amiable dunce.' However, these initiatives also undermined the Soviet's fragile economy and forced them to back away from their bold plans.  Ultimately, it led to collapse of the system, tossing it into the 'ash heap of history' —— just as Reagan predicted had boldly predicted and few believed.  The film paints such a comprehensive and detailed picture of how Reagan made it possible for the Cold War to end without firing a shot.

'I did not know that' is a common audience reaction after seeing the film. This story has not been told or heard often enough.

As with most DVDs, this one has bonus features, but in this case they are truly a bonus and alone are worth the price as the disc.  Included are a selection of Reagan quotes plus four of his most important speeches on the Soviet Union.  The speech before the British Parliament in which Reagan predicted that communism would end up on the 'ash heap' of history, the 'evil empire' speech, the 'tear down this wall' speech and 'A Time for Choosing' speech.  This last speech was delivered in support Barry Goldwater's Presidential campaign in the 1964 —— and is known by students of Reagan as The Speech. In it we first glimpse his vision, a vision which was to liberate much of humanity without firing a shot.

To learn more about this film visit its website here.

James A. Leggette, Ph.D. is an economist and talk radio host.  Michael W. Funk, a former Congressional Fellow, is currently an executive in the telecommunications industry.  They are collaborating on a book on Ronald Reagan's economic legacy.