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JFK

Reviewed By Dancing Potato
Posted 12/05/01 09:31:56

"Lone gunman on a grassy knoll? You fool."
5 stars (Awesome)

It's a movie about a guy who's dead and everyone argues about why he died. Yes, I loved it.

There are things that, as a Canadian teenager, I know practically nothing about. I mean historical things, you pervert. Stuff like the Manson murders, the Watergate scandal and the assassination of JFK are all-American and also took place before I was born, so whenever someone mentions these, I am reduced to nodding along. Well, that was before. Now I have movies, and more precisely, Oliver Stoneís masterful JFK.

November 22nd, 1963. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is in Dallas, sitting in his convertible and driving down the streets as part of a parade. Minutes later, he is shot several times by an unseen assailant and dies. The culprit is found to be Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman), who is taken into custody. A few days later, Oswald is shot by Jack Ruby (Brian Doyle-Murray), apparently as an act of revenge. The case is closed for two years until New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) suspects the governement is keeping facts from the American public and decides to re-open the case. This in turn leads him to Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) a wealthy businessman with ties to a Cuban militant group.

Stoneís film has so much scope that attempting to explain its final theory is damn well near impossible. The screenplay is truly brilliant, etching together real footage with scenes filmed by Stone, bombarding the viewer with information, theories, diagrams and constant replays of the footage shot by Abraham Zapruder. This footage is graphic because it is real; I had never seen it before and it dug its own little roots in my brain. The film itself does that; it etches its own little roots everywhere, touching everything and everyone in the process.

I donít know if the theory Stone puts across is real; thatís beside the point. The film is not so much about the events themselves as it is about the surrounding heresy of the media and the American people, a recurring theme in Stoneís films. As the events unfold (the assassinations of the various suspects and of Robert Kennedy), we feel the country growing more tense, more scared. At one point in the film, Garrison realizes that he may be in danger; at this point, I realized that if a film is ever to be made about the events of September 11th, Oliver Stone must do it.

The cast is truly massive; perhaps the biggest assemblance of quality actors aside from the Robert Altman/PT Anderson school of filmmaking. Altman and Anderson cast quality actors for the big roles; strangely enough, Stone doesnít. The main roles are filled with familiar faces, but then again, so are the smallest bit parts. Actors like Walter Matthau, Kevin Bacon, Ed Asner, Vincent DíOnofrio and Donald Sutherland have roles that sometimes last barely a scene. Some may find this overbearing and braggy; I find it brilliant. Stone has used these actors to make the characters instantly recognizable, as if we were keeping tabs on the massive base of characters here. Costner, still in his Oscar Bait phase (right before the ďI Am The King Of Hollywood, You Will Kiss My Ass No Matter How Horrible My Movies AreĒ phase), is remarkable here, tying together the loose ends with Atticus Finch-esque calm. Second-billed is Sissy Spacek, as Garrisonís wife. Spacek is a respectable actress, and her work is fine here; Iím just left wondering why exactly she was second-billed. Second billing should go either to Oldman for his flawless portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald or Michael Rooker for his best role to date as one of Garrisonís co-workers. Rounding out the cast are (deep breath): Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, Laurie Metcalf, Wayne Knight (as a guy named Neuma, of all people), John Candy, Jay O. Sanders, Donald Sutherland, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Ed Asner and the real Jim Garrison as Earl Warren.

I have no problem with the fact that what is being presented may be complete baloney. True, some aspects were Hollywoodized (Garrison reportedly threw a fit after the announcement of the trial; in the film he puts his face in his hands andÖ uh, well, thatís about it) and some may take personal offense at what is being portrayed here (the same people who are still mad at Jane Fonda, most likely), but the fact is Stone has taken what can best be described as a theory and backed it up with complete conviction. Perhaps this isnít what most people believe (I think I heard somewhere that even Stone has his doubts) but if youíre able to make me believe, then youíve got a winner in my book.

Oliver Stone is a provocateur; each and every one of his movies (except perhaps Any Given Sunday; I donít see what the hell is provocative about that one except the full frontal male nudity) is made to provoke. JFK is perhaps not up to Natural Born Killers when it comes to being provoking, but it certainly stands its own ground as one of the best-crafted political films of all time.

The guy died. There's a reason why. See the movie.

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