Cert: 15 / 94 mins / Dir. Peter Landesman
Peter Landesman's telling of the events surrounding the assassination of John F Kennedy could easily have gone down a mawkish route (especially with a release date to mark 50 years since the event), but his tense script and busy camera keep the running time fully on the rails, with little time for weeping. The only real sentimentality on show is the depiction of a time when the public revered, and even loved, their elected representatives. Even then, there's little in the way of judgement being bandied about; the parts of the film featuring the average citizen (these scenes are in a minority, admittedly) reflect the shock and helplessness of a public who could barely even imagine that something like this could happen, never mind that it would.
Now given that I'm no scholar on the subject, I've pretty much got to take the true story aspect of the film in good faith. There are great performances all round, especially in a marvellously tense scene in the emergency-room as doctors fruitlessly pound away at the deceased's chest, a deafening silence filling the room as no-one wants to be the one who gave up on The President while the packed room bears witness. Between the Parkland hospital staff who are faced first with trying to resuscitate the most powerful man in the world and just days later have the same task presented with his killer, the Secret Service and FBI agents trying to establish if they could have prevented the shooting, and the traumatised bystander who took one of the most infamous home movies ever, the film chooses its areas of scrutiny carefully. Even as it stands, and with only four days of events depicted, there's a lot to cover, so this is by no means a complete journal.
But for all the accomplished acting I've listed so far, the standout performances come from James Badge Dale and Jacki Weaver who star as Lee Harvey Oswald's brother and mother, respectively. The former is torn between trying to have some sympathy for his brother, despite being horrified at what he's pretty sure he's done, and facing increasing hostility from the public and police for guilt-by-association; the latter is a terrifying vision of an attention-seeking fantasist, literally attempting to cash-in on the actions of her son (who's even more certain that he's guilty). These can't have been easy parts to write, research or play, and they lift the film above the historical melodrama it could have been.
On a far less serious subject, the film features Jackie Earle Haley from Watchmen, Glenn Morshower from X-Men: First Class, and James Badge Dale from Iron Man 3. That's quite a spandex pedigree, isn't it?
It's to be applauded that the film centres on the memory of the events, rather than those of the man, whilst also largely steering clear of conspiracy theories. The number of angles the story is told from constantly jostle for position, not always successfully, but they also work together to form a tense patchwork of four days in 1963. It's doubtful how much light this will cast on events this far down the line, but it's a tale worth telling, nonetheless.
I can't go that far, but the film kept my attention for its duration.
I think it does, if only because it's not trying to cover too much.
Realistically, this is a DVD-movie.
At some point, but it's hardly "Oh, I know what I fancy watching tonight…".
Was I supposed to find it funny when the FBI agents were sawing into the doorway of the plane in order to fit Kennedy's battered coffin through? I seemed to be the only one chuckling, that's all.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.