One of the quickest films to reach a wide audience following its Sundance premiere last month, Eugene Jarecki's 'Reagan' debuts on HBO tonight (fittingly, a day after Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday). And it's a must-see for fans of non-fiction film, fans of the 40th president, and even those critical of the man for whatever reason. Jarecki, whose last feature was the magnificently comprehensive 2005 military-industrial-complex history, 'Why We Fight,' may still surprise you with just how fair and lucid a portrait he has made about such a controversial and complicated figure.
He "was both smarter and better than the left think he was," Ron Reagan Jr. says in the film, "and less the giant than many on the right think he was." The son of Ronald and Nancy is a consistent presence throughout 'Reagan' (Michael Reagan is the only other family member to appear, briefly), and he provides some of the most personal and yet also some of the most unbiased commentary, quite beneficial to a work that means to iron out the mythology and iconography of a man typically viewed more symbolically than realistically these days.