JFK (1991) (R)
In 1949, George Orwell published the famous and classroom-enforced novel 1984 (on a side note: it's one of my favorite books). This book isn't the first but it is one of the most well recognized works on big government. Over sixty years since the British novel, our American President has gotten in a controversy about pulling phone records. Now—what do these two instances happen to have in common? The answer is that a percentage of people fear the reach of the government's control, and what they will cover up, who they will frame, and what laws they will break and not reveal to the American, or really any nationality's people. This fear predates 1949 and is current and present all the way to 2013, traveling in time through 1991 to get there. This is where Oliver Stone's film "JFK" comes in to play.
Stone seems to enjoy taking the low road on the path to get somewhere. He enjoys flying in the face of the powers that be—take for example the anti-war films "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July"...neither of which could be called "subtle" by any stretch of the imagination. But he does seem to focus his lens on a certain time period—the Vietnam War.
"JFK" begins with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America. Although the film does deal with the assassination itself first handedly, Lee Harvey Oswald is more of an actual character than Kennedy is. Kennedy is just the canvas on which the painting is etched.
Jim Garrison, a New Orleans DA is deeply affected by the Kennedy shootings. When he hears the news, he even says something to the extent of: "I'm ashamed to be an American today." Luckily, he's not Adam Levine and no microphones were around, so he's safe from everyone but the viewer.
Garrison is immediately struck by the oddness of Oswald and the inconsistencies of the stories that the government is releasing to the public.
He becomes embroiled in a scandal, that seems to travel all the way up the ladder to the president himself. Quietly, he becomes obsessed with finding Kennedy's "real" assassin and proving the corruptness of the people surrounding the incident.
Certainly there is enough doubt about the Kennedy assassination to make his story a plausible one, but Stone doesn't hold back and in this, it takes his film from being a great one back to being just good. Stone, who wrote the screenplay—a fast and harsh piece—never sugarcoats and rarely holds back from claiming the most severe situation as fact...it doesn't ring true to me.
Sure, his arguments are mildly convincing, troubling even; but his execution is a little hazy.
The editing in this film is astounding, complex, and quick (earning a well deserved Oscar). The archival footage of the events prior and after the assassination help the film seem more like a documentary than an actual drama.
The cast...well, there's not much to say about the cast. There are so many big names here that it's almost impossible to keep track. Huge actors make cameo appearances and it starts to get overwhelming after a while—Kevin Costner leads the cast, followed by Tommy Lee Jones, and Sissy Spacek. These three probably have the most lines in the film...but this doesn't stop the names from coming: Edward Asner, Jack Lemmon, Vincent D'Onofrio, Gary Oldman (brilliantly as Oswald), Wayne Knight, Laurie Metcalf (another gem), Joe Pesci, Walter Matthau, John Candy, Kevin Bacon, Donald Sutherland, and Martin Sheen.
Costner and Pesci are the weakest parts of the movie...Costner in particular is very weak as the main man. He's not passionate, obsessed, or driven enough.
"JFK" is a mighty fine picture, it's running time is over the daunting three-hour mark. It's powerful and sometimes bumpy. No one can deny Stone's talent, but it's put to better use elsewhere.
The final scene dissolves into preaching—should you watch the movie, wait until one of the characters looks right into the camera and listen to what they are saying...again, not subtle.
I liked "JFK", the changes in filters and the consistency of the black-and-white shots of the past—both appealing and effective.
Do I believe "JFK"? No. Do I believe in "JFK"? Yes.
As I said in my review of "Zero Dark Thirty"...it's a movie, and that's enough for me.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Note: This review is based on the Director's Cut.
Posted by Micah Jones