6. JFK, 1991
Dir: Oliver Stone
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jack Lemmon
There are so many levels on which to cover JFK, I hope I can go over all of them. The reason why I love this movie so much is because of how good it is on so many levels. Every facet of this movie is excellent, some of those facets are almost ground-breaking for its time.
Some people seem to have the misconception that a controversial movie equals a bad movie, but that is not always the case. Of course there are bad movies that stir controversy, but this is a movie that deserved its controversy. If this movie did not have any controversy, it simply would not have worked. You couldn't just have a movie about Oswald assassinating JFK. This film delves into everything. Every possible conspiracy from small ideas to very, very big ideas. The one scene that sticks out in mind is the ridiculously long monologue that Donald Sutherland's character gives somewhere in the middle of the movie. The things that he says are so absolutely outrageous and left-field and yet, the more and more he goes into it, you almost want to believe that he is telling the truth just because it all fits together in an eerie way. On the other hand, perhaps you don't want to believe he's telling the truth because it is so eerie.
That's the thing that gets me the most about this movie. Even if the details that are given in this movie are untrue, the majority of them at least, they all make sense in its own world. JFK shouldn't be taken as a factual, historical account. It should be taken as a movie that raises questions, makes you think about the possibility of all these theories and conspiracies, makes you realize just how many crazy conspiracies can come up out of this. With something like the JFK assassination, it just doesn't end. The first time I watched JFK, I actually thought it wasn't going to end. It's a three hour, twenty minute movie after all. I didn't want it to end either.
First, let's go over the actors. The very first thing that should be striking to people without them even seeing this movie is just how loaded it is with amazing actors. For the most part, every actor in this movie, no matter how big they are, go into this movie with 100% dedication. And you would think with this many actors, that there could be a problem with people trying to steal a scene away from each other, but this is never the case. Almost every big named actor has their moment in the sun in this movie, even the lesser-known actors for crying out loud. Good for them, too.
Let's go through the list, shall we? Kevin Costner plays Jim Garrison. This could possibly be the best performance he's ever done in film. I've never been a fan of Kevin Costner for the most part, but he nails this role. He shows just how crazy and caught up in the conspiracies Jim was and over the course of the movie, you couldn't help but take his word on the things he was saying.
Then there's Tommy Lee Jones who plays a closet homosexual, who ever saw that coming? Kevin Bacon also plays a homosexual, ok, I kinda saw that coming. Gary Oldman's performance as Oswald is fascinating in that he's acting only in flashbacks, yet he plays the part so well that you forget that's an actor. Jay O. Sanders and Michael Rooker play Jim's right and left-hand men. These guys are more like character actors, but they each have their great scenes. Especially Rooker's perfectly spoken line in the beginning of the movie: "This is crazy." The emotional quiver in his voice just sells it for me.
Joe Pesci almost does steal the show in this movie. He plays the most raving, cracked-out lunatic in film history. Throughout the course of the movie, you can just see his character's heart start to beat faster and faster, the longer he gets caught up in the case until, finally, he snaps.
Then there's Jack Lemmon, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Sissy Spacek, Laurie Metcalf, Donald Sutherland, Ed Asner, and Brian Doyle-Murray. Jesus Christ, what an unbelievable cast. Sure, you recognize almost every actor in this movie but it doesn't stop you from following the story. These actors are so into the roles that you're excited to follow along on their conspiracy rants. That's what this movies does for me, it excites me. I know that not everything that's said in this movie is necessarily true, but who cares? It works as an entertaining movie in itself. It works on so many levels, but entertainment is the main one and that is what Oliver Stone is/was best at. You may not agree with the way he makes his films, but he definitely can make them entertaining on some level.
Another thing that I have to touch upon with this movie is the editing. The cuts, the jump cuts, the different video formats, the zooms, the switching from black-and-white is all edited perfectly together. This probably one of the best edited movies I have ever seen. This movie could've easily went into disaster mode if it wasn't for the editing just because there are so many snippets in each frame. There are so many flashbacks and flashbacks within the flashbacks, but I never found it hard to follow. And, most importantly, it wasn't necessarily done to be flashy. It all served a necessary purpose to be disorientating, nauseating, and exhilarating to the audience. You did not what to expect with each scene and even if you watch it for the second time, you still can't foresee all the images coming at you. This movie just a series of 180s and left-turns, but it's all necessary because this is a subject that is meant to be confusing. Attempting to clarify this conspiracy would be moronic.
You have to give a lot of credit to Oliver Stone for integrating all of the material that he used and being unwilling to show one side of the story as any form of truth. He exposed all of the conspiracies as being as crazy as they are intriguing. If you don't believe them, then that's fine, you don't have to. That's what I like most. He's not preaching anything to you, he's just showing you how insane things can get once you get in the middle of the conspiracy. I don't know any other director who would be crazy enough, or would want to pull off something like this.
The length of the movie may be daunting to some. Yes, this movie goes well over three hours and you feel those three hours, but I never thought about leaving my seat when I was watching this movie. From the opening scenes, I was completely fixated and I had to know what was going to happen next. The movie also leaves a pretty satisfying conclusion and the underlying theme of doing anything to find out the truth is an inspiring one.
All-in-all, JFK is a feeling, it's an emotion, it's a call to action. Ultimately, it's a film that is so compelling and utterly convincing and credit, once again, must go to the ensemble cast for delivering such believable lines. The cast really makes this film, but the combination of the editing, directing, and the writing makes this film something that should be remember for decades to come.
Just to add a little more...
As mentioned before, when JFK was released it was very controversial because of its approach to the subject matter at hand. I think what people have to understand before seeing this movie is that they have to give it a little room for creativity. Of course they're going to be throwing conspiracy theories at you left and right. Whether or not some or any of them are true is up for you to decide. I think that should be stressed the most; you don't have to believe anything that the movie says. It's just giving you all the different types of conspiracies... you can decide for yourself what's real and what's not real. After all, this is a movie, not a documentary. If you want to learn more, read more. Just don't take this movie as some sort of factual evidence, it's not. But if you come into this movie with an open mind, then you can be surprised with how much you like this movie. There are so many things to like about this movie. To be put off by the fact that it's not 100% factual is just bogus. It's not like it's a historical retelling of the JFK situation. It's using a whole bunch of different characters to showcase what they THOUGHT could have happened during the assassination. Some of those guys might have been giving an accurate recount. The point was that we don't know for sure and we'll never know for sure, but we still have to search for the truth. We, as Americans, must stop at nothing to make sure that something that doesn't feel truthful or honest gets exposed. That's really what this movie is about. I think that's what people should be taking away from this movie the most out of all the other things they can take away from this movie.