JFK * * * * *

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Director: Oliver Stone.
Screenplay: Oliver Stone, Zachary Sklar.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, Sissy Spacek, Donald Sutherland, John Candy, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ed Asner, Vincent D’Onofrio, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Rooker, Jay O. Sanders, Beata Pozniak, Sally Kirkland, Brian Doyle-Murray, Wayne Knight, Tony Plana, Tomas Milian, Gary Grubbs, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Dale Dye, Bob Gunton, Sean Stone, Jim Garrison.

Director Oliver Stone is no stranger to biopics or documentaries covering the lives of influential or powerful people. He has looked into the lives of Vietnam veteran and political activist Ron Kovic in “Born On The Fourth Of July“; Jim Morrison, the lead singer of “The Doors“; military general and conquerer “Alexander” the great; Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in “Comandante” and two films on the exploits of American presidents Richard “Nixon” and George “W.” Bush. In the films mentioned, Stone explores the lives of these men but in “JFK” he does the opposite and explores the death of the man and in the process, crafts one of his most accomplished films.

In Dallas, Texas on November 22nd 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. The official explanation released by the F.B.I. doesn’t make sense and is very suspicious. As a result, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) decides to investigate and uncovers a dangerous conspiracy that may involve more than he could ever have imagined.

Oliver Stone has done his homework here and bombards the audience with facts, theories and reports from the media, interviews and eyewitness testimonies. He covers the history of events right across the board from the Bay of Pigs to the Warren Report via the questionable marksmanship of “lone gunman” Lee Harvey Oswald. Whether or not you agree with Stone’s theories is of little importance. What is of great importance is his ability to pose serious questions on one of the most tragic political events and biggest conspiracies in American history. It could easily come across that Stone (or Garrison) have all the answers but they don’t. This is a film that endeavours to get to the root of the truth. Many questions will remain unanswered but it’s also not the type of film that claims to provide them. Some information is pure speculation but the very place where Stone succeeds is his ability to instil debate. He welcomes it and the film is far more powerful because of it. It’s a tangled web that has been weaved and Stone deserves the utmost respect in tackling it head on. What’s most impressive though is that it’s never boring. With all the details, it could be in danger of losing the audiences attention but it doesn’t and this is thanks-in-large to editor’s Pietro Scalia and Joe Hutshing in skilfully piecing all the fragmented narrative strands together. They won an Oscar for their work and deservingly so. Another deserving Oscar winner was cinematographer Robert Richardson for his marvellous attention to detail in capturing the look and feel of the 1960’s. Amongst the the brisk pace and attention to detail is an abundant cast of quality actors and no matter how small the role, each of them get a chance to shine; Gary Oldman makes a perfect Oswald and other notable displays from Kevin Bacon, Joe Pesci, John Candy, Donald Sutherland and an Oscar nominated turn from Tommy Lee Jones as eccentric socialite, Clay Shaw. It’s Costner who is the main focus here though and he delivers a solid and determined performance. More importantly, he’s an appealing presence which is very much required when the film steps over the 3 hour mark. He captures the obsession of Garrison and in a lot of ways makes it our own; his dogged determination for answers reflecting ours. When all the dust has settled, the film culminates into a conventional court room drama but still remains riveting. It’s during this time – despite some already shocking revelations earlier in the film – that Stone finishes with aplomb and takes his chance to disclose some staggering pieces of information.

A conspiracy theorists dream, that may take some criticism for being hypothetical or one-sided but there’s no denying Stone’s bravery or his skill in encapsulating the paranoia and unrest at this time in history.

Mark Walker

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32 Responses to “JFK * * * * *”

  1. Just watched this recently and it’s easily one of Oliver Stone’s finest. Wonderful review, Mark.

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    • I also just seen it myself recently Michael. I’d seen it a few times in the past and on a rewatch the other evening, it still packs a punch. It’s a riveting film and I totally agree, it’s among Stone’s finest. Thanks man.

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  2. I’ve been meaning to watch this for ages, thanks for reminding me of it with your outstanding review.

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    • I hope you enjoy it Vinnie. I think it’s a superb piece of work. For a film that’s 3hrs long, you wouldn’t think so. It just flys by and has you totally gripped. Thanks again man.

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  3. There is a crap-load of info thrown at us in this movie, but you know what? It all freakin’ worked and kept me glued to the screen the whole time. If only Stone made more intelligent and thrilling films like this nowadays. Nice review Mark.

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    • Of course it can’t all be taken as fact but your right Dan, it’s an impressive piece of intelligent cinema. The reason I love this so much is because Stone actually has us hooked, involved and using our noodles. It’s challenging and provocative and fir that reason I give top marks.

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  4. Great review as always buddy. Love anything to do with JFK

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    • Its a fabulous film man. I’m a real sucker for a good conspiracy and Stone certainly delivers that here.

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      • Been a while since I have seen it, I saw it originally because I love JFK and Pesci was in it. Due a re-watch very soon, especially since I just finished Stephen Kings book about JFK

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      • It’s been on film 4 the last few nights so I decided to give it a bit more attention. I’m glad I did man.

        Don’t know anything about Stephen Kings JFK though. What’s going on with that? It’s been ages since I read any of King’s stuff.

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  5. I loved this movie! Anything a conspiracy theorist would want πŸ™‚

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  6. Believe it or not I’ve never watched this. I love Costner and I appreciate a couple of Stone’s earlier pictures. But I’m always cautious with him. Sounds like I need to make this one a priority.

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    • I’m very surprised you haven’t checked this one out Keith. I know Stone’s recent movies have lacked all sorts of things but this is him in his prime. This was during the time where Stone was a director to be reckoned with. It’s a marvellous piece of cinema and History well told. I defy anyone, whether they agree on his speculations or not, not to be swept up in this film.

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  7. I thought this was a great movie, notwithstanding so many people complaining that is wasn’t historically correct. Uh, duh. It wasn’t a documentary, people.

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    • Exactly Russell! This came in for criticism by it being pure hypothesis or speculation but that exactly the point. Stone asks questions (and valid ones) and the structure that he delivers it is nothing short of superb. I love this film and speculation or not, there’s no doubt that it touches a raw nerve.

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  8. This film has eluded me for some reason but I’m still curious to see it. I quite like Costner, glad to hear you rate him and this movie high, Mark!

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  9. I think I need a re watch of this. I saw it at the cinema when originally released and didnt really like it. BUt that was a life time ago, I am a different person now. Should give it another go

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    • I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy theory Scott and this is one of the finest. It’s not just that though, Stone’s delivery of all the information is masterful and it’s really exciting stuff.

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  10. I don’t care how one-sided this is, I love it!

    back and to the left…

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  11. This review is very timely for me Mark because I caught JFK on Film 4 here in the UK last week, and sat mesmerised for the entire duration.
    As you point out it’s difficult to decipher fact from fiction but when a film is so engrossing, you really don’t care!
    I totally agree with your observations about the quality of the cast too, it was a real joy to see so many great actors popping up in cameo roles as the film progressed.
    JFK was definitely my best viewing experience in a while, and your review does it full justice. I’m glad I stopped by.

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    • I also caught it on Film 4 Paul. I hadn’t seen it for years but it’s still as powerful as ever. Everything about it was strongly delivered; from the directing, the acting to the editing and of course the subject at hand. As you say, who cares if it’s not all fact. It powerful stuff and at least Stone challenges.

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    • By the way, thanks for stopping by Paul and for your kind comments. It always good to see new faces.

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  12. Great review, Mark. Curious about this one. That cast is amazing.

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  13. Alex Withrow Says:

    Great review. You basically summed up how I feel about it: whether it’s right or wrong, accurate or libelous, Stone is at the top of his game as a filmmaker here. As a film fanatic, I don’t really care if what the film depicts is correct or not, I just care if it is well done, you know?

    Either way, really liked your review.

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    • Thanks Alex. We seem to be on the same page here. I totally agree. How stone constructs this is masterful and anyone that says otherwise is just nit-picking. Thanks for stopping by man, it’s always nice to meet new folk.

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  14. […] showcased his chameleon-like abilities; Phil Joanou’s State of Grace, Oliver Stone’s JFK, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula and Luc Besson’s Leon are only a few of his standout […]

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