The debut film from Henriette Mantel (a one-time employee of the subject of the film) and Steve Skrovan, "An Unreasonable Man" takes on a fairly large and controversial topic: Ralph Nader, whose presidential bids in 2000 and 2004 as an indepdent were only successful in upsetting many. The documentary starts from the opening of the former lawyer's career as a consumer advocate.
While it was said (at the time) that the "nut behind the wheel" was the cause of auto accidents, it was becoming evident to many that automobiles were not being designed with safety in mind. However, once Nader started going after the auto industry, he started being tailed - and it eventually came out that General Motors was behind the tail that was designed (and failed) to get dirt on Nader.
The documentary provides an interesting look at Nader's childhood, where his father gave the children topics (such as local problems) that they had to discuss at the dinner table that night. His father once asked him after school, "Did you learn how to believe, or did you learn how to think?" After a flood occured in the town, Prescott Bush visited the town and Nader's mother would not let go of him until he promised to get the town a dam so that a flood would not happen again. Sure enough, a dam was built shortly after.
After Nader sued General Motors for invasion of privacy and was given a record settlement, he used the funds from the settlement in order to take his plans further, launching investigations into other areas with his group of consumer advocates, dubbed "Nader's Raders." Eventually, Nader became so popular a figure that many wanted him to run for President. While Nader enjoyed a run of popularity, things began to turn South during the Regan administration, which began to tear down what Nader had done. Not giving up, Nader headed out into the public, visiting cities and getting out to talk to the people directly, even pondering an idea to parachute into cities.
The second half of the documentary concerns Nader's attempts to run for President in 2000 and 2004 as an independent and the controversy that resulted, as many believed that Nader's campaign would ruin Al Gore's chances. Even former "Nader's Raders" presented a letter to Nader saying as much. Nader's campaign decided to hold massive rallys, starting in Portland. The Portland show sold out and they had to turn people away. It built up towards a performance by Nader and others that - remarkably - filled up Madison Square Garden. The coverage in the New York Times of the event - how 10-20,000 people were *paying* to see Nader - was buried.
Nader tried to get into presidential debates, but was not allowed to by the company that hosts and produces the debates - a company that has major corporations as sponsors. If Nader could not be in the debates, he would be in the audience. Well, no - he was not even allowed in the gates, despite having a ticket (and an invite from a network) and was threatened with arrest if he would not leave the grounds. The debate comission simply did not want him there. It turns out that the comission had sent out a "facebook" (Pat Buchanan was also on there) that included all third party candidates, saying that they could not be let in.
The documentary examines both sides of the argument equally - did Nader cost Gore the election or did Gore lose what he should have won because of a disappointing campaign? The documentary takes an even-handed look at Nader's campaign and the result of it, including the fallout for Nader after the 2000 election. Yet, despite the fact that Nader went through serious trouble, he wouldn't quit, trying again in 2004 once again as a force for change. Some, according to Nader, even tried to bribe Nader with a small fortune not to run. The same people trying to bribe Nader also talked about the consequences of running. When Nader did run again, he offered Kerry a series of issues that he could go after, but Kerry refused and instead, went against Nader. After Kerry lost, even those who supported Nader turned.
Overall, "An Unreasonable Man" is an insightful and enjoyable look at Nader's career and succeeds in attempting to try and get a greater understanding of the man. Those for and against Nader should consider a look.
VIDEO: Crisp, clear 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation from IFC films. While some of the archive footage is understandably a tad worn and soft, the newer material appears crisp and clean, with no edge enhancement or artifacting. Colors also appeared bright and crisp.
SOUND: The film's stereo presentation was entirely "documentary audio", focusing entirely on dialogue and occasional music.
EXTRAS: The first DVD offers deleted scenes, and the second offers several detailed featurettes: "Profile of Charismatic Leader", "What Kind of President Would Ralph Nader Be?", "Debating the Role of Third Parties in the US", "What Happened to the Democratic Party?", "Why is the Right Better Organized Than the Left?", "Ralph Nader on the Iraq War" and "A Debate on Corporate Power in America".
Final Thoughts: Overall, "An Unreasonable Man" is an insightful and enjoyable look at Nader's career and succeeds in attempting to try and get a greater understanding of the man. Those for and against Nader should consider a look. The DVD offers up good audio/video quality and an excellent array of bonus features. Recommended.
The Film B+