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USA 1991
Directed by
Oliver Stone
198 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

JFK (Director's Cut)

JFK is not, as the title suggests, a biopic of President John F. Kennedy, but rather an investigation of his Dallas assassination as revealed by the passionately dogged work of real-life New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), who undertook the only prosecution in connection with the event. The case failed and with it Garrison's claim that November 1963 saw an effective coup d'état by America's military-industrial conglomerate whose interests were threatened by the winds of change which Kennedy represented.

Based on Garrison's book 'On The Trail Of The Assassins' and one by Jim Marr's, 'Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy', the film is a fascinating join-the-dots compendium of facts and surmisals that unequivocally contradict the findings of the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin.

As the film's plot is complex (even more so than the alleged plot to kill Kennedy) and the cast of characters is large with actors such as Gary Oldman, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek all turning in strong performances in their respective roles whilst Kevin Costner does his usual stubbornly all-American man-of-principle schtick with wholesome conviction.

The film also owes much to the contributions of cinematographer, Robert Richardson, and editors, Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia, all of whom won Oscars, in visually bringing together the many pieces of the puzzle. Given that the film must be considered, at least in part conjectural, it perhaps could have been shorter, particularly in the last section of the film dealing with the trial of Clay Shaw (an atypical performance by Jones), a relatively minor figure in hte whole affair, without losing any of Stone's message which, in case you missed it, is condensed in a lengthy courtroom harangue by Garrison, one which ends questionably with Costner looking straight into the camera.

Some viewers might also question the value of the attention given to Garrison's home life and the strain on his marriage wanting instead a more focussed Investigative film like Alan Pakula's All The President's Men (1976). The human cost, however, is part of Stone's point so the more justified criticism is that like the characterisations in general it tends to the two-dimensional. Still, even with a three-and-a-quarter hour runtime it's difficult to get all the information in and one's got to admire Stone for trying.




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