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When this film was released in 1991, it was instantly met with a mixture of either great praise or great condemnation, mainly due to its content. Conspiracy theories are everywhere, and films are made of them all the time. many consider the approach by director Oliver Stone to be too much of a reaching branch, full of holes and contradictions, and wonder why Stone couldn't have focused on a different conspiracy theory - there were enough of them floating around after all. However, it must be remembered that while this may have a certain amount of Stone' personal beliefs and theories thrust into it, it is still a film, and a fictional one at that. Personally, I prefer to approach it in this way, and look at it as entertainment, a political conspiracy thriller, and as such, it is a good watch.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassination in 1963 is one of modern histories most famous stories. It's one of those 'Where were you when......?' events that is memorable for the impact it had on the world at the time and subsequently. There are a number of characters around the story that are included here in the film, and while the title of the film is JFK, the film revolves around Jim Garrison, a New Orleans District Attorney who is obsessed with the Lee Harvey Oswald chain of evidence. There's a good use of historical footage as well as some scenes filmed as if they were part of the footage, and it's as events are run through and various characters interviewed by garrison and his team that the interest comes in. You find yourself persuaded by some of the 'facts' that are explored by the team, and then this changes when something a bit confusing and unbelievable comes in. There is second guessing and theoretical analysis all over the place, and when you look at some of the scenes, it's a very well constructed film.
Whether or not there is a possibility of any of the theories here being true or not doesn't really interest me, to be honest. The main thing for me is the entertainment factor and presentation of the film. This part I really liked, and I really liked the way the various characters involved are taken along different threads with different accounts and evidence and interviews with different witnesses. It's a confusing mass of people and testimonies at times, and there are enough unlikely elements that it makes you think about this as fiction, and not one man's personal beliefs and a way that he can get them across.
The acting is for the main part excellent. However, this is mainly from the support provided in the film. The early 90s were peppered by fine performances from actors such as Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci and Gary Oldman, and these guys give great performances in their bit part roles, mainly through flashbacks as the witnesses are interviewed for Garrison's team to put things together. Kevin Costner plays Garrison, and underperforms in my eyes. His usual wooden style does hold charisma, but here I felt it was all a little flowing without enough emotion, which the role should have brought. Even scenes involving his wife's annoyance with his obsession with the assassination don't evoke enough of the tension you'd feel would come when such an obsession manifests itself.
Overall, though, it's very well presented historical conspiracy film. There are elements I wasn't too keen on, and at times I thought it was going on too long, but ultimately it's something I'd recommend watching. The political presentation and the flow of the scenes combined with the flashbacks and the analysis of how the events may have transpired make this a really interesting film, and the thriller aspect that comes in from time to time balances the film nicely. Were it a bit shorter than its 3 hour running time it may have had a better impact and appeared like less of a personal statement from Stone. However, I do feel that it's something worth watching from an entertainment point of view and not looking at it as an improbable conspiracy theory. Recommended.
Oliver Stone's dramatization of Jim Garrison's "On the Trail of the Assassins" and Jim Marrs' "Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy". The film follows New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) in his attempt to prove that a government conspiracy was behind the assassination of John F Kennedy.
"The greatest conspiracies in my lifetime are the ones I grew up under..." so begins Oliver Stone's impassioned defence of his 1992 film, "JFK", when he was interviewed for the May 2010 edition of "Empire" magazine. Stone cites the anti-communist propaganda his generation grew up under. He goes into vague references to the - shock horror! - lies that have been used by politicians. Finally at the end of it we arrive at his defence, which is not really a defence at all. He exclaims with amazed incredulity, "And they fault me for pointing the finger at the Kennedy murder and saying 'There's a possible conspiracy here.'" Stone then seems to link "they", his critics, with the government. The fact that there have been proven conspiracies and that politicians and presidents have been caught lying does not then strengthen the case for his film. It doesn't justify that the picture has a set agenda to prove a single conspiracy that even most of the more radical "buffs" (derogative term used for JFK conspiracy theorists by historians) will not consider seriously. It also smacks of an inductive logical fallacy to some degree and it is certainly a non-sequitor.
I fully appreciate that certain fictitious works of art play with historical events to prompt ideas. The great graphic novelist Alan Moore whose work is generally torn through the mangle and hung out to dry on the Hollywood clothesline of shame does this with great effect in his books. ITV's hugely enjoyable melodrama "Jack the Ripper" and its more intricately plotted predecessor, "Murder by Decree" are both very enjoyable conspiracy theory pseudohistories. Likewise, Robert Graves' "I, Claudius" also contains a brilliant if very far-fetched conspiracy theory for the first half of his book and the TV series. However, Stone's work, once its utter illogicality is revealed is not so innocuous. Jim Garrison was not a Clarence Darrow of his time, as Kevin Costner and Stone try to portray. His fixation with the innocent Clay Shaw seems to be largely based on the defendant's homosexual lifestyle; hardly a good example of liberal democratic politics. As another interesting aside, we have J Edgar Hoover presented as an agent for suppressing information against Garrison as a symbol for truth and justice. Hoover, the founder of the FBI, is famously remembered for his inflation of the reputation of minor criminals during the 1920s and '30s, and his denial of the existence of a mafia. Garrison seems to have a fair amount in common, not only in the persecution of one of the most ludicrous criminal suspects ever presented by a conspiracy theorists but also in his denial that there was any organized crime in his home district of New Orleans.
We live in an age now where just about every single angle of the JFK assassination has been thoroughly debunked and put to bed. The whole scene has been reconstructed by independent scientific investigators (see "JFK: Inside the Target Car" National Geographic documentary and "Penn and Teller's BS" episode 3, season 3) on many occasions all drawing the same conclusions. The so-called "magic bullet" theory, along with second gunmen theory, has been debunked through simple testing methods. Gerald Posner's "Case Closed" and Vincent Bugliosi's "Reclaiming History" are perhaps some of the most thorough debunkings of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of JFK. John McAdams' excellent website on JFK is another great resource on the whole thing.
As for the film, I guess its greatest crime is that it is very well made. Oliver Stone is rightfully praised for his work on "Midnight Express", "Platoon" and "Natural Born Killers". Like Ridley Scott, he has a fine eye for style and can create some iconic imagery. "JFK" entranced my year group, including me, when it was first released. The style was shot very much in line with MTV photographic and editing concepts, including the popular black and white cutaway sequences. It mixes real footage of the time with drama shot for the film. The various talking heads scenes give the impression of a documentary style film and in this respect Stone foreshadowed the rise of the documentary drama along with the partisan documentary film. Kevin Costner does let the side down a bit, as he tries to carry over his Elliot Ness impersonation from "The Untouchables". Whilst Brian De Palmer's brilliant casting of Costner's wooden acting style was perfect for the role of the by-the-book Ness, he lacks the grandiose fire-breathing preacher style needed to depict the obsessively driven Garrison. However, a great supporting cast of Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald, Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw, Joe Pesci as David Ferry and Bob Hoskins as J Edgar Hoover makes it difficult for the rest of the film to go wrong.
In this respect, "JFK" is much like G W Griffiths' "The Birth of a Nation". It is very difficult to fault the film's technical excellence and obvious appeal, but just as BOAN helped stir up racial hatred and resurrect the Ku Klux Klan, "JFK" helped reignite 1960s conspiracy theory paranoia and irrationality in the name of an "idea".
JFK was a classic film from 1991 that caused controversy in almost every quarter. Oliver Stone is not afraid to do this and he insilled anger and amazement in equal measure from everyone who watched this epic movie.
Like so many big historical events there will always be conspiracy theories floating about and the belief that everything is not all that is seems or black and white. I happen to not neccessarily believe all these theories but am interested to read the opinions on these subjects.
The assassination of President John. F. Kennedy on November 22nd 1963 was no exception to the rule and rumours were rife and still are today about the true nature of what actually happened that fateful day. Do we really believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and does the Warren Commission Report really provide all the answers as it claimed to do? This movie delivers all this mystery to the big screen, however by the end I was left with more questions than answers and probably more confused than I was at the start.
At the centre of the whole film is Jim Garrison played by Kevin Costner. He is a real-life New Orleans District Attorney who had his own personal theories about who shot JFK that day. He, in fact conducted his own investigation into the matter between 1966 and 1969. There are some around him who think he is nothing more than a loose cannon and do not believe his opinions. He is used by the looks of it as a focal point merely because he was the only man in America that even attempted to bring anyone to justice for this famous crime.
The movie contains documentary footage of the actual event as it unfolded all those years before, including the famous home movie that was shot at the time. By the end of the 3 hours this movie lasted there was such a web of intrigue and ideas that I still didn't know what happened but could deducd it was extremely unlikely that Oswald acted alone in this.
All the events that took place around that time are seen as Garrison sees them and he puts in a great performance in this particular role and really gets us believing in his character and his determination to get to the bottom of the murder. He really held my attention throughout the whole movie which is not easy to do for a film this long.
If you've even wondered about conspiracy theories and find that fascinating in itself then you should definately watch this epic movie.
I actually enjoy them.
Don't get me wrong, I don't prepare them or wallow in them or anything, but I'll follow an argument long enough to come to a judgment on whether there's enough motive, opportunity and evidence to substantiate whatever's being alleged. If we're honest, we all do this to one extent or another.
But conspiracy theories, and their theorists, have become dirty words in recent times, derided as paranoid loons in darkened rooms eager to convince us that there are worldwide secret organisations out there at once controlling world politics while simultaneously trying to silence internet nerds like them on the brink of discovering some earth-shattering truth.
When it comes to conspiracy theories, then JFK is the daddy of them all, and Oliver Stone's story of District Attorney Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner) and his prosecution of Clay Shaw (otherwise Clay Bertarnd, played by Tommy Lee Jones) for conspiracy to assassinate the President is the yardstick by which all similar works to come about Princess Di and 9/11 will be measured.
"We're though the Looking Glass here, people" - ever hear that phrase? The very nature of a work like this has led to easy parody, not least in Viz Magazine's character "Grassy Knollington", and be fair, when do you ever hear the phrase "grassy knoll" not in connection with that fateful last day in Dallas? There'a a lot of conspiracy theory type conversations going on in this film. There's a lot of lines like "Just think!" and "Open your eyes!" and "Who stood to gain most?" from people sitting round a table trying to get the drop on everyone else. I suspect the Crown Prosecution Service doesn't have meetings like that, but you can understand why Stone believed it was the most effective way to put the information and the lines of argument across.
The film depicts a fictional meeting Garrison has with "X" (Donald Sutherland), a Pentagon insider, who was a composite of several witnesses but mainly Fletcher Prouty, consultant to the film itself. The main thrust of his involvement is controversial, as he lends weight to Stone's theory that the assassination was in effect a coup d'etat effected by Vice-President Lyndon B Johnson, who in return for becoming President, reversed Kennedy's decision to dismantle the CIA and committed the USA to war in Vietnam, benefitting the arms trade.
Along the way, we see Garrison derided as a malicious crackpot and put under terrible marital pressure by his wife (played by Sissy Spacek) depicted as a weak and homely figure, unwilling to see the bigger picture her husband is working on. But the most telling part of the whole film is the trial itself. Whereas most of the arguments until this point have been rehearsals, this is the full production. It's best to sit back and let the case present itself to you at this point, and try not to shy away from the images of Kennedy's head exploding "back, and to the left. Back, and to the left. Back, and to the left..."
Whatever you choose to believe or not to believe, it's unlikely you'll come away from this work still firmly convinced that President Kennedy was killed only by lone crackpot Lee Harvey Oswald, end of. And in many ways that's the point. The lack of transparency in any government is something to be guarded against, and one effect of this film has been the creation of the Assassination Records Review Board, which means we don't have to wait until 2027 to see the records being kept from the American public. Most are already now in the public domain, with the remainder to be released in 2017.
The lesson to be learnt here is that it's as well that there are conspiracy theorists out there testing the veracity of a government's official reports, or questioning the whys and wherefores of state secrecy, as wherever there is no transparency, there is no accountability either. We then run the risk of blindly slipping down the slope towards fascism, where the interests of the state become confused with the interests of those holding the reins of power.
Whether you feel that's too didactic a position for a film director is up to you. The film does have faults (and I can't explain how it won an Academy Award for Best Editing), but overall it succeeds in its purpose of rubbishing the official version of the assassination, and leading you to draw your own conclusions.
Oliver Stone's JFK had a profound affect on me after my first viewing, having only little prior knowledge about the JFK assassination i was given all the facts and theories on a platter for me to make my own opinion on. You might say that being that i had not looked into the matter of conspiracy before and made my own mind up on the matter that Oliver Stone presented to me a piece of biast material that would only show me his views on the murder. Honestly, i believe that this film really just opened my eyes, i took non of it to be fact and simply sat back to enjoy a good conspiracy movie - but one with such a profound impact on real life society.
Following on from Born on the Fourth of July Stone chose another topic of controversy. He took a subject that had massive relevance and spun it on its head for the whole public to view, of course at the time many people were in debate over the assassination and what really happened during the event. This film strikes up the situation with a mixture of ideas and theories that he links together to give the audience their own perspective of the actual murder. Using library footage of the assassination as well reconstructions and fictional flashbacks Stone sets about painting a picture of what really happened that day by connecting the pieces. It is obvious from the start just how much research was done for this film and how every angle has been covered to show all the facts. What i like about this film is though Stone might in the end be trying to tell us his view, for the most of the 3 hour running time he does not try and hoodwink us into believing just his opinion, and though we don't actually get the answer we have been waiting for, we do get to walk away from the film with evidence that strongly indicated that something was definitely wrong with the whole murder, especially the fact that Oswald was consider to of acted alone.
For those of us not alive during the events of 1963 we get a full account of it all right from the beginning, i really enjoy watching this again to collect all the different facts. Honestly though i probably wouldn't care too much about this search for truth if it hadn't been for an incredible cast, especially Costner who gives one of his career performances, holding your attention and his own when big name actors such as Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemon and Donal Sutherland come in and out. Overall i think it boasts an incredible cast that all play their roles very well. This is a truly wonderful piece of film making from one of my favourite directors of all time, it may not be his best, but it sure ranks among them.
The mystery and intrigue surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has also interested me and over the years I have watched a few programmes on the subject. For this reason when we had to do a presentation on a film as part of my history course my group and I chose Oliver Stone's JFK.
JFK is a very 'powerful film about the shots heard round the world and the mystery that still surrounds them'. The film as you may have gathered therefore presents the conspiracy theory ideas that surround the assassination. The film portrays events from that fateful day in Dallas in 1963 to the end of the Jim Garrison trial in 1969.
In brief the film depicts the event of the president being assassinated and then follows Jim Garrisons attempts to bring the case of the assassination to a formal trial. These attempts obviously involve Garrison picking through evidence and bringing forth an interpretation contradictory to that officially published. The film therefore is one that does put forward the opinion that there was and still is a conspiracy surrounding President Kennedy's assassination.
Throughout the film Stone combines real film footage of the events in Dallas with freshly shot material, which gives the film an increasingly realistic feel. This footage however combined with later material that includes images of the dead president can be a little uncomfortable to watch but does highlight Stone's attempt to utilise real and existing evidence.
From the moment the film begins right through to the end of the rolling credits, JFK is somewhat a roller-coaster ride. At no point are you absolutely certain what is going to happen and in this way kept in suspense about how the film will finally end. The suspense of the process however is reduced if you already know some of the conspiracy theroy ideas that surround the actual event. Should you know these then obivously you are in the position to second-guess what the on-screen characters will do. I personally though found this to be of benefit to me and believe it enhanced my film viewing and interpretation.
The cast of JFK is rather star studded and includes Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland. In my opinion the entire cast put in tremendous heart-felt performances that make the film so endearing to watch from start to finish but there is one performances that really stands out. Kevin Costner shines as Jim Garrison and brings something to the film that I cannot quite put my finger on. Somehow though he doesn't at any point allow his character to become bigger than the story being told. This in fact is true for all performances in the film, as at no point is the mystery and intrigue surrounding what is being told ever out shadowed by the performances given by the cast and for a film like JFK this is vitally important.
This film is in my opinion a true masterpiece and deserves all the critical acclaim that it received. In producing the film Stone's aim was to put everything out there for the public to see. Many have argued however that he doesn't simply put out the facts but interprets them and in doing so fictionalises the facts that the audience are allowed to see. Some critics argue therefore that the film suppresses information and is simply 'fiction so cunningly disguised that audience will accept it as fact'.
I personally do not think that Stone ever had any intention of producing a film that he himself didn't believe presented the truth and the fact that many scholars have come to the same conclusions as he does in his film merely increases my certainty of this. The reason people tend to criticise the film is because they themselves are not amongst the conspiracy theory believers and therefore feel that Stone's somewhat uncompromising attack on both Government and Intelligence Agencies is unwarranted and unnecessary.
Fortunately there are many people that refuse to believe the official story that was released after the assassination and keep digging in attempt to eventually have the truth revealed. For these people the film has simply taken on-going debates surrounding the assassination and placed them into a new media and for this Stone cannot be faulted. Whilst people continue to question what they see and hear as well as what they are told Oliver Stone's JFK will continue to add fuel to the fire of the paranoid debate surrounding Kennedy's assassination.
Despite my admiration for Stone and interest in the film I do myself question why Stone chose to make the film. Was it produced simply to show a 'level playing field' like it has been suggested or did he have a slightly ulterior motive and is that motive revealed in the final few minutes of text at the end of the film?
"A congressional investigation form 1976-1979 found a 'probable conspiracy' in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and recommended the Justice Department investigate further. As of 1991, the Justice Department has done nothing. The files of the House Select Assassination Committee are locked away until the year 2029."
If the real motive for the film is to be found in this text then the film from all aspects must be seen as a success, as the film itself played a big part in the national debate that culminated in the passage of the 1992 Assassination Materials Disclosure Act. It is rare for a film making a statement to actually bring about change and therefore JFK is not only a film about history but also one that helped to make history.
The DVD itself contains no special features apart from interactive menus - but then we simply expect that to be the case now don't we. Other than that the only additional feature is that the film can be viewed with subtitles.
Stone personally admitted that the film was bound to have it's enemies but that ultimately it would survive and so far it has done just that.
An absolutely fascinating insight into the assasination of JFK. Harrowing and dark at times, the movie is a thought-provoking look at the events surrounding the assassination.
Kevin Coster was perfectly cast in the role of Jim Garrison, who investigates the killing. The music, which is by John Williams is as fitting as it is doom-ridden and scary. The film is packed full of quality stars such as Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones (in an Oscar nominated role), Gary Oldman, and Joe Pesci; and although the plot becomes complicated at times, the film never lets up pace.
Oliver Stone is one of the most controversial directors of all time and this film is the perfect example. It introduces some neat and over-simplifed ideas to the table about the assassination and leaves the audience with a deep-seated desire to go out and research the killing for themselves.
A fantastic piece of filmaking and scriptwriting, with engagig camerwork which is disturbing and thought-provoking, providing a valuable insight into various angles of the JFK assasination.
"Too many lies have been told and too much evidence tainted for the truth to ever be known"
That may be true, or in the 17 years since this movie was released maybe we're edging closer to finding out in our lifetime what really happened on that fateful day on November 22nd 1963.
If you believe it to be a true conspiracy or if you really believe the lone gunman theory you should still watch this masterpiece of cinema.
Kevin Costner plays Jim Garrison who was the DA of New Orleans who after seeing much evidence and realising something wasn't right with the events decided to conduct an (initially ) unofficial investigation into the Assassination of JFK, I won't go too much into detail regarding the plot and its many intricacies, but I will say that you will come away from this movie compelled to turn your computer on and read more about the Assassination and the key players involved and truly want to form your own opinion on the matter, i know I did....the Movie is that powerful and well acted and scripted, yes there is some criticism of embellishing a few facts, even if that is true this is a movie and thats what movie's do. you can't help but be drawn into Jim Garrison's fight and Kevin Costners moving performance as an Under fire Garrison and a man who needs to find out the truth, you also have a great supporting cast with some major players like Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Joe Pesci and many more to really give the film some real credentials.
Be warned though, this film is 3 hours long ( 20 minutes more if you watch the directors cut ) so be prepared to invest some time in it. but believe me it will be worth it.
Still his best film (although both Platoon and the wired, witty, wildly-inventive Natural Born Killers come close), Oliver Stone's JFK remains his most controversial and most impassioned - and this from a director hardly renowned for a lack of such (the dire Alexander and World Trade Centre excepted).
Kevin Costner gives a career-best performance as New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, upon whose book the film is partly based. Unconvinced by the official line of events, Garrison embarks upon an obsessive, exhaustive and exhausting campaign to find out the truth about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a campaign that takes him from guerrillas in Cuba to the deepest, darkest corners of Washington.
Costner's character is clearly a composite - When he delivers his awe-inspiring half-hour speech to a stunned courtroom in the final act, with each shred of evidence presented, each hole in the official statements scrutinized and exposed, he is clearly channelling the raging Oliver Stone as much as Jim Garrison.
Notice also Garrison's glasses in that sequence. As the film progresses, the light reflected in the lens clears so as, by the time of that tour-de-force speech, his gaze is crystal clear.
Whether he's right or not is for the viewer to decide, but certainly Stone does everything in his power to ensure that we are caught up in every twist and turn, emotionally and intellectually engaged from the off. It is the most perfect melding of style and substance in Stone's filmography thus far, every head-spinning sequence serving to draw us closer to Garrison, closer to the Truth.
It is an exhausting film but a deeply rewarding one. As stated above, whether or not one agrees with Garrison / Stone is entirely a matter for the individual. What cannot be denied though is that JFK finds Oliver Stone at the very top of his game, each frame bristling with angry energy, each sequence employing a wealth of film-stocks and editing tricks. It is a fiction film that has the weight of a documentary, and an investigative drama that feels like an edge-of-the-seat thriller.
Whether anyone involved will ever produce anything this good again remains to be seen. For now, this is the pinnacle of Stone's career and one of the very greatest examples of Hollywood cinema period.
This is one of the last good films Oliver Stone made before going off the deep end ("Natural Born Killers, U-Turn.") The main problem I have with this movie is the fact that it is based on two conspiracy books and Oliver Stone's own opinion. As we all know he tells stories that are based on real-life, but he adds his own twist to get his two cents in. Not that any movie is 100% accurate and true to life. I thought everything about this movie was good, acting, cinematography, the wonderful cast, and the story was good, just not too believeable. One of the highlights of this movie is the way that stock footage is interspersed with the film shot for the movie. Stone was also able to get people who looked a lot like the real people to play Oswald, Ruby, Warren, etc. I also liked how he shot some of his own footage to compensate for the angles you cannot see in these old films. He did a good job of making them look like they were old movies drudged up from some basement or filing cabinet. The main part of the story that is hard to swallow is the fact that many of the people who talked to Garrison and his staff were never recorded or went on the record. We are asked to believe solely what he found out even though he has no proof. I did like the way he summed up everything that he had discovered in the climax, it is a very good, (and long), monologue. This is a good movie to watch with someone who does or doesn't believe in the JFK conspiracy. You will probably end up arguing for hours.
"...what's the reason? Well if it prospers then none dare call it treason". This is perhaps the perfect summary of the conspiracy surrounding the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Back in the early-mid 90s when I was at my most inquisitive, the film that I played every day and remembered more vividly than any other was Oliver Stone’s epic “JFK”. Now, in the early 00’s, when I currently am at my most debatable and questioningly inquisitive (in an educationally enlightening way), the movie that I play more than any other and the one that serves to intrigue more than any other is…still, Oliver Stone’s epic “JFK”. I think it is a testament to the strength of the film that it holds precedence in my opinions despite me being as fickle and changeable as the next person. Subjects such as motion pictures and literature are constantly open for change, and for JFK to maintain such high praise in the eyes of critics and viewers alike, now some ten years after it’s release, is indeed a feat to be proud of. Before I go on, I warn you that this opinion is a very long one…so those of you with limited net-time might be best saving this page and reading this opinion offline (so long as you log back on to rate it!) THE DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone doesn’t make small films, something he has come under criticism for. Either he tackles a project head on and with such unrelenting depth and scope that all ground is covered, or he doesn’t bother to make the film at all. It can have been of little wonder then, that he was the first director to undertake the mammoth challenge of directing and writing a screenplay about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the theories that followed. Such is the extent of the Kennedy assassination subject matter that the very task of compacting the topic into a movie-going length film is almost impossible,
and indeed the cinema version ran up towards three hours in length. Add another hour of deleted scenes (as seen on the US Special Edition) and you are left with an epic film of nearly four hours. In a time when the movie trend was towards hour-and-a-half comedy (Wayne’s World, Bill & Ted etc) and action (Terminator II, countless Van Damme/ Stallone type films), for a director to make a provocative historical drama was just about unheard of. As I will discuss later, the film, being so provocative and so alarmingly gigantic, played a major role in the 1992 Assassination Materials Disclosure Act…who says Hollywood can’t make a difference? It is not at all surprising to see “JFK” in the Oliver Stone best-of DVD box set that is now available, as it is a towering work, even above his other fine efforts “Nixon”, “Wall Street” and “Platoon” (to name just three). THE CAST: For his grand project, Stone recruited some of Hollywood’s shining stars. Remember in the early 1990s, before his disastrous “Waterworld”, when Kevin Costner was the golden-boy who could do no wrong? “JFK” was the film that did the most for his reputation and propelled him to mega-stardom. Looking back at his performance (as New Orleans DA and trial prosecutor, Jim Garrison) it is easy to see why, and it becomes more and more questionable as to what happened to his career since the mid-90s. That, however, is a completely different story. Supporting Costner is Tommy Lee Jones who delivers a usually fine performance as the man-accused, Clay Shaw. Perhaps the most important role for the story goes to the then not-yet-massive Gary Oldman, who is brilliantly convincing yet dubiously human as the “lone-nut” (or was he?) assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Oldman has little dialogue acting to do, but his screen-presence is overwhelming and it is easy to see why he became such a hot pro
perty after this film (going on to star in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Leon, and Air Force One…and more recently a One-2-One TV advert). Kevin Bacon makes an appearance as one of the witnesses in the trial (Willie O’Keefe), and Jo Pesci is superb as the eccentric David Ferrie, an alleged co-conspirator. John Candy makes a fleeting appearance as he equally eccentric Dean Andrews, Walter Matthau has a brief role as a senator, Jack Lemmon has a significant role towards the start, and there are numerous other cast inclusions that test the eye but annoy the brain…as now, for I cannot recall the names of the other famous actors who appear in the film at some point or another. It is a stellar cast of Hollywood’s finest gems at the time, and all deliver performances worthy of their reputations. THE HISTORY: It is something of a surprise to find the first major motion picture about the Kennedy assassination came some twenty-eight years after his murder. In that time, thousands of theories had grown. Who had pulled the trigger on November 22nd 1963 as Kennedy’s motorcade thread its way through the crowd-lined streets of Dallas, Texas? Had the shots come from one rifle, or from more than one shooter? Was the shooter pulling the trigger at the end of a planned conspiracy, or was he a “lone-nut”? And of course, the most famous of all debates, where did the shots come from - from the sixth floor window of the Texas Book Depository, or from behind the picket fence on top of the “grassy knoll”? All of these theories should make the production of a film very difficult, but “JFK” covers all of the ground that a good conspiracy movie should do. Of course, liberties are taken with the truth as in any dramatisation of any real-life event, but in general the film is a good portrayal of the history of the JFK case up to the Garrison investigation of 1969. Whilst you would have to live all of your
life in a cave to not know the name Lee Harvey Oswald in connection with the assassination, the film manages to ignore the basic stereotypes of Oswald and try to prove a deeper conspiracy at the heart of the shooting. It is not my business to offer a theory on the assassination, nor is it the business of any viewer to take Stone’s movie to be the final word of evidence in the assassination materials…but the film is provocative because it handles the truth. Stone based the movie on two books, “On The Trail Of The Assassins” by the real-deal Jim Garrison (played by Costner in the movie), and “Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy” by Jim Marrs. In reality, there was a lot more research work put into the historical aspect of the film, so do not be put off by the limited recognition of just two books as advertised in the credits. Far greater than any other recent history dramas (Gladiator, Braveheart, etc) “JFK” provokes and intrigues just as much as it entertains. But be warned, there are countless misinterpretations of evidence, and anyone learned on the assassination is likely to attack the film as propaganidsing the conspiracy theories. Do not form an opinion solely on this film...watch it, go out and read more about the subject, and then start to create an opinion. THE FILM: The film is, as far as the DVD box says, “about the shots heard round the world and the mystery that still surrounds them”. This is not strictly true. Yes, “JFK” is about the fatal shooting in Dallas 1963, but it does not go any further than the end of the Garrison trial in 1969, and so to consider it covering all the mystery that “still surrounds them” (in the early 1990s) is some twenty two years out of accurate range. There is a text coda and dedication that covers events relating to the assassination since 1969, but the actual film stops with the end of the trial.
The film begins with one of the most powerful openings in recent movie history. A short introduction to the brief history of Kennedy’s presidency and it places immediate emphasis on the Communist Cuban and Vietnamese problems he encountered. Also becoming immediately apparent is the screenplays’ desire to tie in a CIA connection to the assassination – “Kennedy secretly claims the CIA lied to him to try and provoke a full invasion of Cuba”. Then, after a moving speech from Kennedy about his vision for a new and better world we move to Dallas, November 22nd 1963 and see his arrival at the airport and the departure of his motorcade for the public streets. Real video footage and photography makes the chronology of events seem all the more horrifying when you know what is waiting around the corner, and a shot of an empty Dealey Plaza (the site of the shooting) mixed in with the montage of the motorcade crawling ever closer gives an impending sense of tragedy hanging just frames along the road. Then a quick, almost unnoticeable, flash of an open window in a high building overlooking the plaza. Then a few seconds from the Zapruder film, the only full video documentation of the assassination. The sound of a rifle cycling…a blast…and the pigeons take off from the roofs. It is indeed a powerful scene, and it is only the beginning of an epic ride through the assassination saga. There follows several scenes (4-7) covering the aftermath of the assassination: America watches on TV, Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested, the New Orleans District Attorney’s office begin an investigation, the murder of Oswald, the questioning of David Ferrie. Then comes a break, “lets get on with our lives boys”, before we rejoin time some three years later in 1966. It is after talking to a Senator on a flight, about the assassination, that Garrison begins to raise questions. The next scene shows Garrison’s inc
reasing interest and questioning of the Warren Commission (the investigation into the assassination), and by scene 10- after walking around the Oswald and Intelligence agency area in New Orleans – Garrison announces his plans to enter back into the case – the murder of the President. From scene 11 until scene 32, the film builds Garrison’s case with witness reports and interviews with the accused. All the time you are led closer to the idea of conspiracy rather than a lone-assassin, and by the time the case goes to court it is indeed an arrest based upon “entering into contracts with other persons with the specific intention being the murder of President John F. Kennedy in 1963”. This leads to criticism from some viewers, who claim Stone focuses too much on the conspiracy theory…but remember this is the story of Garrison’s case, and with him being a conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone cannot be blamed for whatever theories come across in the film. Unfortunately the whole idea of a conspiracy involving Jones’ character, Clay Shaw, is lost in the actual trial part of the film. At the end we hear one of the jury comment “we believe there was a conspiracy, but whether or not Clay Shaw was involved is another kettle of fish”. Instead the trial seems to urge the view that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have acted alone; a point made by witness testimony, looking at the autopsies, and watching the Zapruder film. It is a harrowing piece of evidence to bear witness to, some 8 or 9 seconds of amateur video footage that contains all of the assassination. The fatal “head shot” is rather gruesomely zoomed-in upon, and is played in total about 6 or 7 times in the film. The trial in the film is the most important part, and perhaps the overall most enjoyable, but when you take a second to remember that inside this grand epic film the key moment is real footage, it actually happened, then it s
eems disturbing, upsetting, and to some extent sickening. It is easy to glorify violence, but in this instance the repetition on showing Kennedy’s wounds has a purpose…to show that Oswald did not act alone. Still, you have to wonder if a 15 classification is suitable when the crux of the film is seeing somebody’s head blown apart so vividly, and so gratuitously. Garrisons (Costner's) closing speech in the courtroom is indeed moving, emotional, convincing, brilliantly acted and excellently written. Even though Garrison did not say the exact speech in real life, it sums everything up perfectly. Costner is obviously moved, almost breaking down at one point, but he manages to talk for seven or eight minutes straight, and he reminds us all of why he was so highly rated a few years ago. His closing words in the court room are said with a pause, a breath, and a stare at the camera: "Show this nation that it is still a Government of the people, for by the people, and by the people...Nothing you ever do will be more important. It's up to you". This final line is the one that had such an influence in America, showing people that they could make a difference...and they did. The final part of the film sums up (in a scrolling text coda as part of the credits) what has happened since the Garrison trial. Having watched for three hours in which all evidence for a conspiracy has been presented, the viewer is left with an angry bitterness to read in the credits, “By 1991 the Government had done nothing. The files of the House Committee of Assassination investigation are locked away until 2029”. Its is for this reason that national debate about the Kennedy assassination grew again after the release of this film, and after mounting public pressure congress passed the 1992 Assassination Materials Disclosure Act. SUMMARY: Without a shadow of a doubt (more than can be said for its sub
ject area) Oliver Stone’s “JFK” is one of the most critically acclaimed, box-office successful, and provocatively important films of the last decade, maybe of all time. What other film has led to a government Act because it generated such controversy and appeal? What other film has even dared to tackle such a topic as grand as the Kennedy assassination, and not even be scared into holding back the truths. What other film has dared attack the Government and Intelligence Agencies of its country in such an uncompromising manner? It is a shame that since “JFK” the trend has again shifted back to the big-screen-entertainment-special-effects films, rather than films like this that actually make you think, form an opinion, and can actually make a difference. As long as it is human nature to question and seek out the truth, JFK will endure as a powerful and popular film. It will certainly be playing on my DVD for a long time yet. The government of the United States locked the Assassination materials away until 2029, in the safe knowledge that anybody important from the time of Kennedy’s murder would be long gone. Thanks to this film, a whole new generation of people has knowledge. It is a rare thing when films actual change things, be it in the past, present or future, but JFK succeeds. As Oliver Stone himself said of his epic "Obviously this film is going to be denied; there will be some decrying and reviling. All the errors are going to be attacked. It will be discredited. Yet it will survive" “Dedicated to the youth, in whose spirit the search for truth marches on” (JFK dedication)
Until recently the paranoid dvd owner has only had one version of JFK to watch and conjure up theories on Kennedys assasination. Fot he UK market that's still true as the film is available in it's three hour version with only dolby surround sound. In the USA however Warner Bros have now released a Special Edition directors cut spanning two dvd's The film now runs for an epic 205 minutes but is never dull as Oliver Stone throws so much into the pot that makes you think and keeps you gripped. The extra 17 minutes of footage only makes things more open and is the definitive version that was intended. There's no filler here. Just to give an indication of the length of the film. There are a mammoth 88 chapter stops in the film ! The film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and is anamorphic for widescreen tv's. The new transfer is perfect with only a few belwmishes whihc is not surprising as the film is 10 years old now. Sound wise the film has been re-mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it's a good mix although don't expect much use of the rears. This film is primarily dialougue driven. Theres also a french language track if you're interested. So what about the extras ? Well apart from the extended cut there is an audio commentary from Oliver Stone. This is an excellent track as Stone not only talks about the making of the film. He also elaborates of the true historic elements of the film and seems to be a man very educated on american history. The second dvd lists extras as deleted scenes, trailer, production notes and essays. This may not seem a lot but the delted scenes run for nearly an hour and expand on plot points and were cut for pacing. It's great to see them and you can watch them with optional Stone commentary. There are also 2 "multimedia essays" that run for a total of 40 minutes. One is an interview with Mr X himself Fletcher Prouty. The other is a look at JFK
and the impact it had on america and the way they looked at the Kennedy incident. Finally there are a few dvd-rom options that are accessible by the internet. They take you to a collection of reviews of the film as well as information on Oliver Stone. This is an excellent dvd package that for once deals with its subject through the extras rathner than having standard making of extras. I only hope that this sees the light of day on the Region 2 market soon. The only negative thing is the packaging. Warner Bros have only produced double disc sets for Oliver Stone films so far and still resort to the snapper case. The second dvd comes in a small paper sleeve that slides into the case. A bit more thought is needed on this side of things.
Oliver Stone has often been derided as a paranoid conspiracy theorist who tends to use the cinema as a battleground for his own personal wars. As a Vietnam Vet, he tends to plan his projects in the same way the Nazis planned their fateful raid on Stalingrad - bold in concept, meticulously planned, but ultimately too much to bite off. The stereotyped image of Stone as a raving fear merchant quickly dissolves during a viewing of 'JFK', which, incidentally, is his only overtly conspiracy based work to date. It comes as a surprise, given his reputation, that Stone lucidly and cool-headedly assembles all his evidence, convincing and otherwise, and uses the power of movies to state his argument. Working from two books, 'On the Trail of the Assassins' and 'Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy', Stone creates a mesmeric tapestry of sounds and images to bombard the viewer with several encyclopaedia worth of theory, conjecture and political intrigue. Black and white, colour, newsreel footage, and dramatic reconstructions bring the real life tragedy so vividly to our attention, with the help of an awesome ensemble cast fleshing out the characters. After narrowly averting a nuclear holocaust during the Cuban missile crisis, some suspect President John F Kennedy is going soft on Communism. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman). Three years later, New Orleans District attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) notices a few holes in the Government's official take on events in Dallas. On further investigation, he comes to believe that Oswald was, as he claimed, a 'patsy'. As the clues and suspicious deaths pile up, Garrison believes Oswald was merely the fall guy at the end of a massive conspiracy - possibly involving the CIA, the FBI, the Cubans, the Mob, and even the new President, Lyndon Johnson. As the
fiercely determined Garrison, Costner gives a level headed, reassured performance that reminds us why he was a big deal once. In a sublime ensemble cast, Joe Pesci is probably the most visible as another small cog, David Ferrie. For twenty minutes or so, Pesci chomps scenery as Ferrie realises the information he gave the DA will result in his death. Tommy Lee Jones has juicy role as effete businessman Clay Shaw/Bertrand, suspected of being a major player in the Coup d'etat. Kevin Bacon enjoys himself immensely as a fascistic, homosexual convict. John Candy has a rare dramatic role as a dodgy, jive talking lawyer. Pick of the bunch is Gary Oldman, having a day off from raving lunatic duty and delivering an extremely sympathetic portrait of the doomed Oswald. Odd Couple Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau crop up, but don't even share a scene together. Donald Sutherland makes use of his creepy sibilant persona to spice up an exposition role, as mystery informant 'X'. Further down, Michael Rooker, Lolita Davidovich and Vincent D'Onfrio have small roles, and even the real life Jim Garrison gets in on the act, playing a judge with wooden authority. The only real disappointment in the cast is Sissy Spacek. A talented character actress, she is lumbered with a 2D nagging wife role. It's Oliver Stone's movie, though. Years before his trademark slash n' paste film stocks technique became a parody of itself in 'U-Turn' and 'Any Given Sunday', he finds the perfect pace for his historical conundrum, and it doesn't let go of your attention for the full three hours. Like a master magician, Stone saves his best trick for last. Presumably knowing his controversial movie would be jumped on from a great height by many big voices, he saved the Zapruder film for the last half hour. The Zapruder film is probably the most important pi
ece of evidence in history. Having been suppoenaed from the vaults of Time Life Magazine, it shows the President having his head blown off. Even if every word of Stone's conspiracy theory was rubbished, it wouldn't matter, because the Zapruder film stands. It clearly shows Kennedy's head being blown BACK, when Oswald was supposedly shooting from behind him. This couple of seconds of film shows there was a conspiracy in Dallas that day. Audacious, mesmerising, frightening, 'JFK' is the most enthralling history lesson you'll ever have.
Not a John F Kennedy biopic, but a film of New Orleans' attorney Jim Garrison's investigation into the President's assassination, JFK is that rarest of things, a modern Hollywood drama which credits the audience with serious intelligence and ultimately proves itself a great film. Oliver Stone's film has the archetypal story, visual scale and substance to match; not just a gripping real-life conspiracy thriller, but a fable for the fall of the American dream (a theme further explored by the director in Nixon and Any Given Sunday). JFK doesn't reveal exactly what happened in Dallas on 22 November 1963--those who knew generally took their secrets to the grave--but marshals a vast wealth of facts and plausible theories, trusting the audience to draw its own conclusions. Following less than a year after Dances With Wolves (1990), these two epics mark the high point of Kevin Costner's career and the vast supporting cast here, including Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland, is superb. Quite simply the best American political film ever made. --Gary S Dalkin