This one really has me confused. Almost every IMDb comment here - likes and dislikes - is based on people's political beliefs, or on their arguments about what is historically accurate, or how they perceive the Hollywood Left in general and Oliver Stone in particular. But, folks, this is a movie made for TV and all reviews should be based on its relevance or lack of same as a work of art. A TV movie a work of art? Okay, maybe not, but all films, plays, musicals, operas, etc. aspire to at least encompass the artistic impulse, and veracity is hardly even a consideration in such things. Only excellence is. We now know that Richard III wasn't the demented murderer Shakespeare painted him as, and that Boris Godunov did not murder his way to the Russian throne. But those facts in no way diminish Shakespeare's RICHARD III as one of the greatest plays ever written, or Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV as the greatest of all Russian operas. So, let's let verisimilitude lie dormant for a minute and simply look at this TV movie as a minor work of art.
I'd never heard of this film before, and watching it 16 years after it was made, I found myself absolutely mesmerized from beginning to end by the story it told. Was that story totally true? Probably not. Were the characters as portrayed absolutely true to the people involved? Probably not. Was what we were given in place of absolute truth and correct character delineation worth seeing? For me, it was ten stars worth seeing, so that obviates the need for further discussion, at least on my part. I thought every performance in the film was something of a standout, but especially those by Richard Dreyfuss as Al Haig and Holland Taylor (who, despite enjoying what I now find to be considerable fame as, in particular, a TV actress, I did not know) as Nancy Reagan, but also by Colm Feore as Caspar Weinberger. In fact, this is the best thing I have ever seen from Dreyfuss, who has wonderful memories for me in JAWS and MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS. The pure suspense of what has happened, is happening, and may yet happen is fantastic when you consider that everyone seeing this film already knows exactly what did or didn't happen. That is the mark of a good scriptwriter and a good director. Oliver Stone apparently produced this film, so that the Conservatives are jumping all over it as some kind of Leftist propaganda. I am a Conservative, and I got no such inkling from anything I saw here. It seemed to me that, for all practical purposes, Haig and Nancy Reagan were the two most admirable people to be seen in it. Mrs. Reagan's all-consuming love for "Ronnie" may be laughable to some, but not usually to people who grew up in Middle American Happy Households of the Reagans' life period. Haig, often portrayed (here and elsewhere) as a loose cannon, seems to me to be the only person in the story who has complete clarity of thought throughout (except for that one major "I am in charge" statement to the Press, a simple verbal faux pas to anyone who is not a conspiracy theorist). What surprises me most, and what not one reviewer here addresses, is that the film ultimately seems to come down on his side, when, as he leaves the Crisis Room for the last time and is asked what he will say to the Press the next day, he faces everyone down and quietly details every single thing he has found wrong in the way the crisis was responded to - from losing the President's nuclear access code card, to non-working telephones in a time of national emergency, to the near war engendered with Russia due to Weinberger's blunder, etc., etc. - and then says that, like a good soldier, he will fall on his sword before he makes these things public. In the end, and given the 'facts' as presented in this dramatization, any viewer taking the story at face value would have to agree that, if there was anything that had to be saved for the Nation during those first 24 hours after the assassination attempt, it was only Haig's overwhelming confidence and action that could be counted on to do so.
Truth in reporting: Either shortly before or shortly after the Reagan Administration came into power, I met for dinner and a show with an old army buddy of mine from Tennessee and his family, this at the New York Hilton. As we entered the elevator to come down to ground level, who should be in that same elevator, all by himself, but General Alexander Haig, whom we took the liberty of speaking to for perhaps one minute. He was extremely friendly, but I cannot recall ever having been in the presence of anyone who exuded more charisma than General Haig, and that was almost 40 years ago, so however Richard Dreyfuss may have played him in this film, he hardly overdid that aspect of his personality.