JFK (1991) – Oliver Stone

The final film in the What Else to Watch list of DK Canada’s The Movie Book, following my viewing of Battleship Potemkin is Oliver Stone’s three hour historical, and dramatic exploration of the Kennedy assassination in 1963.

The film follows Jim Garrison’s (Kevin Costner) real-life investigation into the case, perhaps compiling the most comprehensive look at the century-defining event. Whether you believe there was a conspiracy or not, the film is damned convincing.

To help fill out his story, Stone pulls out the stops in terms of star power, Sissy Spacek, Ed Asner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, Michael Rooker, Joe Pesci, and Kevin Bacon all play their roles to help unveil the story behind the assassination.

Stone always shoots his films in fascinating ways, combining black and white film, with colour. The black and white film is tweaked to look like newsreel footage, and Costner is given lots of exposition to connect the pieces to form a tapestry of possibility.

The film is put together nicely, is sleek, bounces nicely between sharing facts and dramatic moments crafted for the screen.

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I remember digging into the books this film is based on before the film came along, I read both Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs and Jim Garrison’s book, On the Trail of the Assassins. There is no doubt in my mind that there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy. Who was involved? I don’t know. Do I believe the government had a hand in? I do. And I don’t think the American country has ever been the same again.

I spent hours reading the books, leafing through the images, trying to relate the facts, theories, and suppositions in my head. Stone does a nice job of laying all of these out in the film, and not only presenting them but doing so in an engaging way that captivates.

It’s not really a surprise then that it won 2 Academy Awards. It took home Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (for Jones), Best Sound, Best Score, and Best Screenplay Based on Previously Published Material.

With those credentials, this one rather demands to be seen. No matter your thoughts on the actual event, it is a brilliantly made film, featuring a number of powerhouse artisans both in front of and behind the camera.

This also gives me a moment to rave about Oldman who plays Lee Harvey Oswald in this film. ¬† I’ve been a fan since I first saw him in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Oldman is an actor who immerses himself in his characters, and from film to film is a completely different person. He’s a fantastic actor, without equal, and no matter what films he is cast in, I know he’ll always bring it.

Make sure you check this one out, and check out DK Canada’s The Movie Book for more amazing cinematic choices.

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