Killing Reagan,” the latest TV dramatization of the “Killing” series based on a book by Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly, was, on the whole, a respectful depiction of the greatest president of the 20th Century and the assassination attempt that almost ended him. The TV movie avoided many of the Hollywood clichés about Reagan. The president, played by Tim Matheson, who won the Cold War was depicted as a competent statesman who was madly in love with his wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan, played by Cynthia Nixon.

Kyle More plays John Hinckley, the increasingly disturbed, obsessive would-be assassin, a pathetic loser who almost altered history/

The TV movie starts out slow with the presidential debate during the 1980 campaign that sealed the deal for Americans to replace the hapless Jimmy Carter with Reagan. We see Hinckley lurking at the edge of a Carter appearance and almost end his presidency early with a pistol shot, only to lose his nerve at the last moment. Then, as Reagan struggles with get his economic package passed and to come to grips with the Soviets, Hinckley descends into madness.

“Killing Reagan” gets into high gear when Hinckley opens up outside a speech the president gave, hitting not only the president but James Brady, the White House press secretary, a Secret Service agent and a police officer. Reagan is taken to a hospital and Hinckley to jail.

The TV movie shows how touch and go the operation was, with doctors struggling to find the shattered bullet near the president’s heart.

Reagan pulls through and later walks out of the hospital in triumph.

“Killing Reagan” suggests that the president’s brush with death changed him, making him believe that he was saved for a purpose, which was to make peace with the Soviets. The idea is an oversimplification of what happened. Reagan still wanted to bring down the Soviet Union but was only able to offer the olive branch years later when a young, reformist leader named Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.

Nancy Reagan is seen to have been driven so paranoid by her beloved Ronnie almost dying that she seeks the help of an astrologer, something the president indulges against his better judgment.

One thing the TV movie does not indulge in O’Reilly’s theory that the shooting triggered Reagan’s Alzheimer’s and that it manifested in his second term. The movie should have been called “The Almost Killing of Reagan.” Its depiction of a great president is bittersweet considering what the choices are in this election cycle.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!