Movie Review: JFK (1991)

Whether or not you believe there was a conspiracy in the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is beside the point of watching this film. Because this is a movie review and not a political commentary, I will not state my beliefs on whether or not I believe Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman in the assassination, but I still highly recommend JFK, directed by Oliver Stone, to all.

This has become one of my favorite movies, mainly because it uses some of my favorite actors. All together, the marquee actors used in this film would probably take more than a paragraph to list, but I will anyway: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones,  Joe Pesci, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Laurie Metcalf, Sissy Spacek, Kevin Bacon, John Candy, Donald Sutherland, Ed Asner, and many more.

Kevin Costner plays New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, the only man to ever bring someone to trial in the murder of President Kennedy. That man, was the director of the International Trade Market in New Orleans, Clay Shaw, played by Tommy Lee Jones.

The film is more than three hours long, if you have the director’s cut, which in my opinion is the only version you should watch.

During that time, Costner’s character stumbled on some very intriguing , and unrealistic “facts”, put forth by the Warren Commission, the official investigation by the government into the assassination.The real Jim Garrison himself, who was still alive at the time, played Chief Justice Earl Warren in a cameo appearance.

The first two hours and change are the investigation by Garrison and his New Orleans office, with the final hour being the actual trying of Clay Shaw. This trial, I would guess, is probably shown in 95% of all American history classes to students between 8th and 12th grades, in school.

Costner is superb as Garrison and Oldman plays an honest portrayal of Oswald. In what was John Candy’s only serious film role, he plays his part perfectly. But perhaps the best performance goes to Joe Pesci, who plays the fast talking, chain-smoking David Ferrie, another man who “may have been” in the CIA. His monologue midway through the movie is what will make everyone start thinking there might have actually been a conspiracy, which is the point of the movie.

People criticize this movie because Stone combined facts with fiction, and slightly altered facts. That’s why this is a movie, and not a documentary. The viewer must look past that and see it as an actual product.

Oliver Stone’s purpose for making the movie was not to make you believe that so-and-so did this, and so-and-so did that. It is to get you thinking, and to ask questions. Did Lee Harvey Oswald pull the trigger? If so, was he alone? How easy would it have been for one lone nut to assassinate a president? Questions like that, the viewer just has to ask when the film is over.

Those reasons, along with the best film editing you will ever see in your life, make me rate this move a 9/10. Politics aside, the editing and cinematography make this film an achievement of the modern era. The combining of Stone’s shot footage, the Zapruder Film, actual news reels, and other various home movies make this a treat for the eyes.

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