Coming to DVD based on Bill O’Reilly’s best selling book from director Rod Lurie, National Geographic and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is “Killing Reagan.”
Ronald Reagan (Tim Matheson) and wife Nancy (Cynthia Nixon) are campaigning for the Presidential election in 1980. Going up against President Jimmy Carter, Reagan learns that he needs to understand what it takes to get the American voters on his side.
Inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1981, now President Reagan is advised by Alexander Haig (Patrick St. Esprit), Ed Meese (Joel Murray), James Baker (Geoff Pierson) and Jerry Parr (Joe Chrest) — but more importantly by Nancy.
Also happening is unhappy man John Hinckley, Jr. (Kyle S. More), who is having a difficult time with life. He turns toward his obsession with actress Jodie Foster to find a way to get her attention. It is when his plan comes together that the fateful day of March 30, 1981 shocks the nation.
In one moment bullets fly, so is the news that the United States president has come under fire. Now the government chess pieces begin shifting with who is in charge of the country while the president goes into surgery and the vice president is in the air. Nancy rushes to her husband’s side, taking charge of who sees her husband and consoling others who were also shot.
Now President Reagan must come back to a White House that is much different as the country continues to look for his leadership.
Matheson as Reagan, and it must be said, looks eerily like the former president. Relying on those around him, Matheson gives a strong performance as the American leader but also has soft moments with Nancy. There wasn’t much time between being sworn in as president and the assassination attempt, yet Matheson gives a performance that is seamless before and after the tragic event.
Nixon as Nancy is absolutely stunning, and I have to say I would never have thought of her for this role. She is soft spoken and listens intently to everything that goes on around her husband. Nixon’s character acts swiftly and with the look of a woman who isn’t to be crossed. From hair to makeup and mannerisms, Nixon is a winner from start to finish.
More as Hinckley gives a very striking performance of a man who slowly detaches from reality. From his obsession with a Hollywood actress to hiding his life from parents who can’t understand the changes, More shows an intensity during a time when people didn’t notice someone in his condition.
Esprit as Haig gives a slightly shocking performance as a man who seems to want to control everything — including President Reagan. Pierson as Baker is a man who keeps everything close until he is asked and then has no problem taking on anyone who doesn’t have the country or president’s interest.
Other cast includes Mike Pniewski as Jack Hinckley, Gary Weeks as Stephen Colo, Rebecca Tilney as Jo Ann Hinckley, Leander Suleiman as Dr. Mitchell, Bill Winkler as Casper Weinberger, Michael H. Cole as Jim Brady, Jason Vail as Dennis McCarthy, Dane Rhodes as Richard Allen, and James Martin Kelly as Don Regan.
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“Killing Reagan” is an interesting look at the history of this president but also the timeline of the assassination attempt by Hinckley. It looks into the very close relationship between Ronald and Nancy Reagan and how that would be important to his successful term as president.
As strong as Reagan was as a person, it is clear that wife Nancy wasn’t a wallflower either. When it came to her husband, she did what ever was necessary to ensure his success and keep anyone, even in the cabinet, from causing him physical or mental harm.
There are also peeks inside the administration and the momentary power struggle of those in Reagan’s cabinet. It was a tumultuous time in the country with internal issues as well as dealing with Russia.
The film also looks into the timeline of Hinckley’s run-ins with the law and his propensity toward firearms, which I didn’t know. It is interesting how the world pre-internet meant that citizens truly did rely on the information coming from news media outlets. Using the real newscasts lends realism to the film and reminds me of whom my parents relied on for factual news.
The DVD includes the special features of behind the scenes featurettes with “Tim Matheson on Playing Ronald Reagan,” “Historical Accuracy,” “Cynthia Nixon on Playing Nancy Reagan,” “Behind the Scenes with Bill O’Reilly,” “Making the Costumes” and “The Reagans: A Love Story.”
In the end — the shot that shocked a nation and changed history!