On November 22, 1963, president John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested for the crime and subsequently shot by Jack Ruby, supposedly avenging the president's death. An investigation concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby acted alone in their respective crimes, but Louisiana district attorney Jim Garrison is skeptical. Assembling a trusted group of people, Garrison conducts his own investigation, bringing about backlash from powerful government and political figures.Written by
Liz Garrison's hair during the final trial changes from up to down in different shots. See more »
"To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men." - Ella Wheeler Wilcox
...We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. And to do this three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishement. We annually spend on military security alone...
January, 1961. President Dwight D. Eisenhowers's Farewell Address to the Nation.
...This conjunction of an immense military establishment and arms industry is ...
[...] See more »
Closing statement: What Is Past Is Prologue See more »
A director's cut prepared by Oliver Stone for the video release features 17 minutes of footage not included in the theatrical version. Among the new material:
Guy Bannister and his secretary talk briefly about Oswald and laugh.
New flashbacks of Oswald's life in Dallas with his wife after his return from Russia and his contacts with George De Mohrenshildt, Janet and Bill Williams (the man who gets Oswald a job at the book depository).
When Garrison and his assistant are at the book depository, they discuss the fact that the motorcade route was changed by then Dallas mayor Earle Cabell, brother of general Charles Cabell fired by Kennedy in 1961.
A fake Oswald (Frank Whaley) is seen in a flashback test-driving a new car and talking about Russia to the salesman.
In another flashback, Oswald is introduced to the New Orleans Cuban community and meets Sylvia Odio, leader of an underground anti-Castro movement.
A new flashback of Oswald and Clay Shaw seen together at a voter's registration drive in September '63.
Jim Garrison appears on "The Jerry Johnson Show" on TV to be interviewed. He tries to show photographs and defend his theories but he's cut short by host Jerry Johnson (John Larroquette).
Bill Broussard meets Jim Garrison at the airport where he's leaving for Phoenix, AZ and tells him the mob will attempt to assassinate him. After a few minutes he has to flee from a public restroom when he hears strange voices in the next stall and is approached by an unknown man (a cameo by production designer Victor Kempster) who pretends to be a friend of him.
Garrison and his staff discover that Broussard has disappeared from his apartment, and argue about the real reason why Clay Shaw has been brought to trial. While they're talking, Garrison sees Robert Kennedy on TV and says "They'll kill him before they'll let him be president".
During the trial, more witnesses against Shaw are shown than in the theatrical version, including a obviously insane man (Ron Rifkin) who claims that Shaw discussed killing Kennedy with him.
The first film in Oliver Stone's films about the American presidency, JFK is a historical drama exploring a popular conspiracy theory regarding John F. Kennedy's assassination, adapted from the books On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs. On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas, allegedly by Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman). The inciting incident occurs when New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison notices several inaccuracies in the Warren Report (the official investigation of the assassination) and decides to reexamine the case of Kennedy's death. Garrison and his team pursue the truth at all costs, and eventually take Kennedy's death to court to ask: who really is responsible for killing the President?
Clocking in at more than three hours, the film has a definite focus on its story, with every element of the film being used to further the plot. Garrison is a modern hero in the film, a city DA that rises to the enormous challenge of investigating the President's assassination. Kevin Costner seems to perfectly capture this type of character (also achieving a thick, charming southern accent) and connecting with the viewers. He is surrounded by an all-star supporting cast, all of which truly become the real life figures they portray. Stone writes believable and engaging dialogue, but since the film focuses so heavily on story, he spends little time developing the characters. Oliver Stone is a controversial director, and his style can be very polarizing, but personally, I enjoyed his strange method of storytelling. The costumes seemed appropriate for the setting, and the set designs were extraordinary, particularly the recreations of 1960s city streets such as Dallas and New Orleans.
John Williams was responsible for writing the film's score, and was nominated for an Oscar for his efforts. Williams was busy writing the score for Hook around the same time, so he actually wrote themes for the film before the film was shot. This resulted in Stone cutting and editing the film to the music, instead of the typical method of fitting the music to the film. Williams gives JFK a tragic, but heroic theme, but also incorporates pulsing synthesizers for the investigative scenes (an unusual tactic for the composer). This resulted in an effective score and a seamless integration with the film. The cinematography was unusual, but played a very important role in the story. The film opens with a montage of newsreel clips from JFK's presidency. It slowly intersperses Stone's own clips, but the lighting and coloring (black-and-white and grainy film) make the clips all seem genuine. Much of the film is shot in this manner, giving a very real sense to the story, very similar to a documentary. I can honestly say this film would not have been the same had it not been for this unique approach to cinematography.
JFK (rated R) contains strong language throughout, and the assassination scenes may be too graphic for young viewers. The 3-hour runtime will bore some; however, any lover of historical dramas or investigative thrillers will finish the film asking for more. The film is an emotional journey, and viewers will always find themselves rooting for Garrison and his seemingly impossible quest. I give this film a B+, finding it "guilty" of keeping me on the edge of my seat.
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