Customer Review

42 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A superb but wildly inaccurate motion picture, November 28, 2003
This review is from: The Day Reagan Was Shot (DVD)
The Day Reagan Was Shot is a gripping, impressive film, but it does a great disservice to the parties involved and to the American public by passing itself off as a true recounting of the awful events of that day. I went into this film somewhat on my guard, knowing that Oliver Stone has never failed to let actual facts get in the way of his historical dramas; I was also leery of the fact that Richard Dreyfuss, a terrific actor but also a well-known liberal, would be playing a primary role. I was ten years old on March 10, 1981, but it is a day I will never forget. I won't dare compare the Reagan assassination attempt with the public execution of President Kennedy, but it was a formative event in my young life. I loved Ronald Reagan, and due largely to him I had begun developing my own political views. The images of those few seconds outside the Hilton Hotel were forever burned into my brain. Seeing the President shoved into a limo and rushed to a hospital while three men lay grievously wounded on the sidewalk was unnerving to say the least, invoking a horror I could scarcely have imagined before that fateful day. Thus, the events presented here are important to me, and I really hoped they would have been presented truthfully - they were not.

It is important for viewers to know that this film deviates wildly from the truth in many important respects. Secretary of State Alexander Haig (played brilliantly by Richard Dreyfuss) is demonized most unfairly, the state of chaos existing that day is exaggerated, the potential of nuclear war against the Soviets during the crisis is far-fetched indeed, and the members of the President's Cabinet and senior level staff are oftentimes wrongly portrayed as buffoons. Not only is Haig presented as a man making a selfish power play, his actions are even referred to more than once as a coup d'etat. Oliver Stone's Haig stomps around barking commands, arguing and insulting his fellow Cabinet members to a ridiculous degree, actually slapping one of his most trusted aides, and usurping power in the midst of a government in crisis. Although his character is redeemed to a small degree later on in the film, Stone unloads all of his guns on Haig's character. It is true that a certain degree of chaos did exist in the wake of the attempt on Reagan's life, and we all know that Haig addressed the public and mistakenly listed secretary of state as next in line for the Presidency after the Vice President (who was in flight over Texas when the assassination attempt occurred). If you look at the history yourself, however (and we now have tapes of the discussions in the crisis center that day), you will find an imperfect yet noble Alexander Haig who took necessary action for the good of the country. When deputy press secretary Larry Speakes went on television and refused to answer a question as to who was currently running the government, Haig stepped in to quell public fears and reassure allies and Cold War enemies that there were indeed capable hands on the wheels of the American government. Besides his inaccurate interpretation of the 25th amendment, Haig has also been criticized for claiming that military alert status had not been raised at the time. In reality, he only learned that Defense Secretary Weinberger had indeed raised that status after he returned to the situation room following his statement to the press. In this movie, he gets that information beforehand and is thus portrayed as lying to the country and the world. This is just one of many facts that Oliver Stone gets wrong.

Oliver Stone makes a mockery of the President's advisors and Cabinet, characterizing them as squabbling children in the aftermath of the shooting. Certainly there was tension and frayed nerves in the crisis center, but Stone goes far beyond the pale in this movie. CIA Director William Casey is particularly targeted for ridicule as a deaf, unintelligible old man. What surprised me more than anything, though, was the inaccuracy of the actual assassination attempt scene. As soon as President Reagan exits the hotel, Hinckley is firing at him; there's no "Mr. President" call just before he steps into the limo, and the brave actions of Jerry Parr (who pushed the President into the limo) and Tim McCarthy (who jumped between the gunman and his target in truly heroic fashion, taking a bullet in his chest for the President) are not given the attention they deserve.

Thus, The Day Reagan Was Shot is poor, politically slanted history. As a motion picture, though, it works wonderfully. The scenes in the hospital are riveting and sometimes graphic, all of the actors and actresses give wonderful performances, and Richard Dreyfuss turns in a truly impressive performance. Thus, I have to balance both sides of the coin in terms of rating this film. It's a five-star movie, but its subversion of the facts and misrepresentation of history cry out for one star only. Thus, I am splitting the difference and giving it three stars. It's a great film, but please don't take Oliver Stone's version of history as the truth.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 23, 2007 7:14:04 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 25, 2011 8:12:41 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2008 7:04:09 PM PST
GAMEPLAN says:
Funny how you fail to address the review but instead just attack the reviewer. Easier that way for you I guess. What the original reviewer points out is highly accurate. This film was based on a script and not on what actually happened that day. The tape recordings of the Situation Room that day made by Reagan's National Security Adviser clearly show that the VAST majority of what occurred in the film was a fictional distortion. It's obvious that YOU are the extreme partisan and only attacked the reviewer because he accurately pointed out the distortions of this film.

Posted on Dec 23, 2008 8:48:34 PM PST
I thought this was a good review and a fair assessment. And it never ceases to amaze me how the liberal left -- the proponents of "tolerance" and "peace" -- are so quick to wish harm on those with whom they don't agree.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2010 7:42:28 PM PDT
Little Domin says:
Here's a simple idea, Jenny --- perhaps the liberal left, the proponents of tolerance and peace, are 'quick to wish harm' only on those who stand in the way of tolerance and peace? Sort've like extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice? Nah, thats too difficult to comprehend.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2013 7:19:50 PM PDT
No one stands in the way of tolerance and peace except those who cosign "tolerance and peace" to self-serving vague sentimentality, like hate-filled liberals.
Your attempts at analogy are off the wall. Goldwater's remarks were a reference to the virtue of a coherent and rational expression of human values, which managed to get the airheaded, moral-relativist, pseudo-intellectual establishment all upset at the time.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

Daniel Jolley "darkgenius"
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Shelby, North Carolina USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 443