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I was 12 when President Kennedy was assassinated. Even though I am Canadian, it was a huge deal for us. I remember seeing him and his wife Jacquie coming out of the Church of the Ascension in Westmount Montreal sometime in 1962 or thereabouts. No crowds, no security, you could feel something exciting about him. North America changed profoundly after that. This movie does not put forward any theories about what took place at Dealey Plaza, but it does show with great accuracy how normal people are affected by extraordinary events. No matter how well we are prepared for things, when disaster strikes it takes everyone off guard and chaos ensues. Look at current events and we see the same thing. The mixture of archival footage was done exactly right, so you felt that you were really there. Despite the horrible circumstances, by the simple acts of ordinary people, one could see that not everyone had lost their humanity. The acting was superb, Marcia Harden, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti and Zac Efron in particular.
Greetings again from the darkness. Fifty years of investigation and
research have spawned an endless number of theories about what
happened, how it happened, and why it happened, that tragic day in
1963. President John F Kennedy and his lovely wife Jacqueline had
captured the hearts of many Americans, and on a trip to Ft Worth and
then Dallas, the streets were lined with eager citizens who just wanted
to catch a glimpse ... hoping some of that Camelot magic would rub off.
Instead, a city and a country, went spinning off into feelings of anger
and devastation. Rather than show us what we already know, this is a
peek at a few individuals impacted in ways you might not have
previously thought about.
Vincent Bugliosi made a name for himself as the prosecutor in the Charles Manson Family murder case, and then penning the corresponding book Helter Skelter (subsequently made into a movie). This movie is based on Bugliosi's book "Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy".
The main stories we follow are that of Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), Lee Harvey Oswald's brother Robert (James Badge Dale), their mother Margueritte (Jacki Weaver), Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), local FBI Agent James Hosty (Ron Livingston), and the emergency room doctors and nurses who treated JFK and Oswald (Zac Efron, Colin Hanks, Marcia Gay Harden). You might think that's too many stories for a single movie, and you are probably correct. However, it's fascinating to see the frenetic pace and immediate fallout of just how these people were impacted. Sure, we would like more details and backstory, but that's not the approach this film takes. It just provides a taste of the gut-wrenching decisions Mr. Zapruder has to make while grieving for his beloved President; and the shock of Oswald's brother as reality hits; the stomach-churning delusions of Oswald's mother; the absolute frustration of the CIA and FBI agents knowing their historic failures will be their legacy; and the disparate emotions that enter the operating rooms with Kennedy and Oswald.
The film doesn't take any stance on the grassy knoll, CIA involvement, LBJ involvement, or number of shooters. This is not a crime solving story or research into conspiracy theories. No, this is a look at real people in extraordinary situations that no amount of preparation can pacify. There are so many little details revealed ... one of the most powerful occurring at the Lee Harvey Oswald funeral, and another as the JFK casket is loaded onto Air Force One just prior to LBJ taking the oath. So many little things you have probably never before considered.
If you were alive at the time of the assassination, you understand the impact. If you have read any of the stacks of books written about that day, you understand what happened and the messy investigation that followed. Bugliosi and director Peter Landesman effectively mix news reels from the day with dramatizations of the fallout, and the actors do a tremendous job of showing just how personal this affected those at the time. A different perspective brings with it interesting discussion ... and a big thanks if your mother is nothing like Oswald's!
A certain generation gained its knowledge of the assassination of John
Fitzgerald Kennedy from Oliver Stone's JFK. Don't get me wrong, JFK
remains a fine film, but there's a danger of believing the conspiracies
are factual. Parkland, Peter Landesman's directorial debut, doesn't
necessarily right any wrongs but it does approach the assassination
with a clean slate.
Parkland unfolds the story we are all familiar with, but manages to shock thoroughly as it recounts the events of 22 November 1963 and the immediate aftermath before the conspiracy theories and thoughts of dark dealings beyond the obvious murder emerged. Landesman manages to numb us, playing our own horror and sense of helplessness across the faces of the protagonists before us as their innocence is lost and their faith in humanity is rocked.
Central to Parkland is Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), the man who inadvertently shot one of the most important 26.6 seconds of film in American history: the arrival of the President's cavalcade and his harrowing, public execution at the hands (probably) of Lee Harvey Oswald. We watch Giamatti's Zapruder evolve from confident boss to shuddering, emotional mess as he realizes just what he has recorded and the impact that footage will have on the world and his own life. It is very easy to view Zapruder as a fortunate man, a man who in a lucky half minute, shot himself fame and financial security, but Giamatti flawlessly portrays a man who just might crumple permanently under the weight and pressure from the police, the Secret Service, the press...
At every turn in Parkland there is another character recoiling in their own horror, undergoing their own life-changing trauma, and each is played with the sensitivity demanded in order for Parkland not to be a mawkish, voyeuristic experience.
After last year's The Paperboy (but overlooking the awful The Lucky One), it's definitely time to take Zac Effron seriously as an actor. As Doctor Charles 'Jim' Carrico, the young doctor called upon to put his own emotions aside and fight for the life of his President as the First Lady weeps in the corner holding a chunk of her husband's brain, he looks shell shocked and as numbed by the events as we feel.
Subtler is James Badge Dale as Robert Oswald, another man whose life is irrevocably changed by the actions of a man, who happens to be his brother. At first shocked by the shooting, he retreats into himself as realisation dawns, emerging only to castigate his deluded mother, Marguerite (Jacki Weaver), who sees an opportunity for fame and hero's honours for her youngest son.
But Parkland is such a powerful film for much more than the performances. They say the devil is in the detail and it is the minutia that kicks us in the gut the hardest. The obvious is overlooked in favour of the finer points. We never see the Zapruder film clearly or in its entirety but the sound of Jim Carrico pumping the President's chest while the gathered crowd watches silently and without hope, goes right through us. The handle of the coffin torn off as the agents lift it out of the hearse, the panic as they realise it will not fit into Air Force One, the hasty removal of the aircraft panel with saw and shoulder... They all serve to make the situation real, the horror genuine and immediate.
Landesman has created a film of morality; not just the obvious judgment towards murder, but the more difficult matters of a church burial for a man despised by the population, the suspicion thrown at the family and the blame levied at those who could have prevented the act if they had had the benefit of foresight. Parkland is an emotional journey the delivers a series of punches to leave us reeling.
Yes, we know the story, even though we may not have even breathed our first breath in 1963, but have we experienced the emotion before now?
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"This was not supposed to happen!" Dallas Texas, November 22nd 1963. President Kennedy is in town for a campaign stop and is on his way to the Dallas Trade Mart for a speech. He never makes it. While riding in his motorcade he is struck in the head by a bullet and is rushed to Parkland hospital. A staff of doctors do all they can to save his life but are unsuccessful and he becomes the 4th President to be assassinated. This is what happened next. I will start by saying that I am extremely interested in the Kennedy assassination. I have tons of books, movies and other memorabilia of the Kennedy assassination and administration. I won't bore you with what I know or even my opinion of what happened because that would distract from the review. What I will say is that this is nothing like JFK. That is one of my favorite movies ever but it is more or less an opinion and more conspiratorial. This movie doesn't really deal with the assassination head on but rather the out lying players. The movie focuses on Zapruder (Giamatti), the man who took the famous movie. Forrest Sorrels (Thornton) the head of the secret service. You also see the actions of countless medical staff, Oswald's family and the Dallas F.B.I. You see the actions of these people and how the assassination affected them rather then what all the other movies focus on. Overall, a different kind of Kennedy assassination movie. It doesn't take sides, just shows how people acted. I really enjoyed this a lot. I give it an A.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
******This Review May Contain Spoilers****** The assassination of JFK
and the following 4 days are re-counted in our next review. Hello there
to everyone watching and thank you once again for getting your 2013
Toronto International Film Festival info from We Live Film &
ReelScreenReviews, I am movie critic Nick Iacobucci & our next movie
review is for "Parkland". This period piece and intense drama will open
in limited release at the beginning of October and will bow on DVD in
November, and it stars Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Marcia Gay Harden, Tom
Welling, James Badge Dale, & Billy Bob Thornton. "Parkland" comes to us
from director Peter Landesman, and he is a first time filmmaker that
also serves as the screenwriter on this project.
"Parkland" tells the tale of the events that unfold on November 22nd, 1963, or the day that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. After being shot President Kennedy was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital where a team of respectable medical personal did everything in their power to save this world leader. This film also incorporates the elements of Abraham Zapruder or the man that famously shot the most watched home movie in history. "Parkland" also covers Lee Harvey Oswald and his family's relation to Parkland Memorial, and it also has time for the Dallas Police, the Secret Service, and the FBI.
Well people "Parkland" is shot very up close and personal, and many times throughout the film you actually feel like you are watching a documentary. It obviously makes use of the Zapruder film and mixes dramatic narrative and actual footage for an almost seamlessly flowing story. "Parkland" felt very realistic from time to time, and never relents on an intensity that it brings forth from the film's beginning.
Now even though most people are fully aware of the events that occurred on the road in Dallas that fateful day, most are completely unaware of the events that followed. The actions that unravel in the operating room are grippingly graphic and powerfully real, and the film also introduces other points of insight. Like what happens amongst and within the Oswald family is a revelation, and their relationship with the cops and the Feds is quite interesting.
"Parkland" also explains how an ordinary average garment manufacturer could easily be considered a United States national hero. Abraham Zapruder knew what he had filmed, and I might add knew about the technicalities of photography for the time period. He was there with the FBI & the Secret Service every step of the way, and Mr. Zapruder was the distinct and crucial element as to why anyone knows anything about the murder of JFK. He positively knew what he had filmed and he kept on filming it as it played out, and in my opinion that alone makes him a hero. There are only conspiracy theories today because of the strength of Abraham Zapruder in that moment on the 22nd of November 1963, and without him nobody would've known anything concrete. It shows us direction and a time scale of the shots fired as well as a 2 dimensional blueprint of the murder itself. Put simply in an era where cameras were just being invented for the masses, this was the one aspect the killers never counted on.
Then "Parkland's" authentic look and feel was truly a character all its own, and added very much in its delivery. The clothes and décor, the cars and props, everything in this feature is a spot on match for 50 years previous. Then aside from the way the movie looks the emotional connection that it captures with the audience is even more impressive. There were many people in attendance that were crying for a fallen American President that was likely killed many years before they were even born. This film perfectly conveys the misery & tragedy of a country mourning the loss of its emperor.
Then I actually wrote the word 'Relentless' in my notes to describe this film 4 times throughout its viewing. "Parkland" absolutely does not stop in terms of the trauma that unfolds in the hospital, the city, or the country that November day. It seems to interweave authorities, witnesses, victims, & of course medical personal all wrapped up in a national heartbreak. This movie is filmed well, the screenplay is tight, the acting is top notch, and with little time to breathe I don't know how anyone could complain about boredom.
I think that I clocked "Parkland" at a quick 1 hour and 30 minutes, and in that time there wasn't even 1 boring or worthless second. This film is the definition of a true ensemble cast, and that's where everyone that stars in it cares more about the film than they do about their own individual performances. This movie flew by as one of the most enjoyable, interesting, and informative films that I have seen all year, and that's why Nick's Reel Screen Review is a perfect 4 stars out of 4. That perfect recommendation comes for the grippingly realistic drama "Parkland".
This is an extraordinary film. It's as true to what actually happened as a filmmaker could do it. And it takes you places, including the bloody trauma room where the heroic efforts to save Kennedy failed, that no assassination film ever has. The story is largely told in the faces of the characters. Even the Zapruder film plays out reflected in his eyeglasses. And remarkable vignettes such as the actual fight with local authorities to get the body back to DC and the struggle to get the casket onto a plane never designed to carry one are shown in full. A side story shows the effect of Oswald's act on his family, his brother trying to digest and cope with it all, and his lunatic mother staking her own claim to fame. Whether you lived through that terrible time or have others in your life who never did, see Parkland. The event will never be forgotten. And this film will take you to a new level of understanding why.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a Kennedy historian, have been since I was about 13. I live for
any films (dramatizations or documentaries) about the Kennedy dynasty
or Assassination. When I first heard about Parkland, my expectations
immediately were astronomical. I was so thrilled and could not wait to
see it. So, add to that astronomical excitement when I received a
ticket to the North American premier at the Toronto International Film
Festival. My reason for telling all this was perhaps when the film
comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray I will watch it again and come back to my
review. It was hard to truly analyze this film amidst my excitement. I
do agree with many professional critics that creator/writer/director
Peter Landesman bit off more than he could chew. This is a huge story
and a lot going on and he covers more than he should. Despite the film
being called "Parkland" it spends as much time focusing on other events
outside the hospital after the assassination. It would have made far
more sense to stay inside the hospital and show us a dramatization of
these people (similar to what Emilio Estevez's Bobby did) rather than
covering so much all over the place. I do give him kudos for his
historical accuracy and covering an angle of the assassination that I
am fairly certain has never been on film before.
Despite there being some significant names attached to the film, there was literally no star. Everyone shared a few minutes, a few scenes, and a few lines. Perhaps that made it harder to become emotionally invested in these characters. I have never been a "hater" of Zac Efron but I've never really been a fan either. He won me over in this film for two reasons. 1. At the premier of the film he was so incredibly great with his fans and the crowd. He worked that crowd and got to every person he possibly could. 2. His performance (in particular the scene at the beginning of the film when he is first called in to work on Kennedy) is pretty close to the best in the entire movie. He shows some incredible emotion and strength and proves he has some serious acting chops. Despite being listed second in the cast Tom Welling's role was incredibly small. I am pretty sure he had three lines in the whole film so sadly I can't say good or bad to his performance because it was simply unnoticeable (and I am a huge fan of his from Smallville days.) Paul Giamatti is good in his role as Zapruder. I expected him to be great because Giamatti is a great actor and he certainly looks the role but he just doesn't seem to really sink into it. Marcia Gay Harden is decent in her role but it is a painfully small role which was surprising for her. She is basically a supporting cameo to the whole story. Ron Livingston gives a solid performance as James Hosty but I desperately wanted to see more from him and more from the character as well. Same for Billy Bob Thorton who gives a good performance but in so few scenes. The person who seems to get the most screen time is James Badge Dale who plays Robert Oswald. He is also very good in the role but the script just doesn't seem to give any of these great actors enough to really get into their characters. Many of these real life people could almost support their own films so to see their characters rushed is unfortunate. Jeremy Strong is a good Oswald, he certainly looks the part but his one major scene opposite Badge Dale isn't enough to show off his ability.
This type of story is simply too grand and complex in scale to cram into an hour and a half without it feeling rushed. I wanted to become emotionally invested in these characters and I struggled to do that. I also noticed that I felt like the rest of the audience was getting a little restless around the halfway mark. It laid everything out in point form and didn't beat around the bush but it missed the dramatization of the situation and forgot to make you feel like you were there rather than receiving a history lesson. It isn't a total loss, there are some really good scenes (Kennedy first arriving at Parkland, Oswald's burial was a particularly strong scene.) I thought the scenes of Zapruder and others seeing the film for the first time would be powerful but honestly...their reactions felt forced. I sort of understand the tepid reviews this is receiving. It is worth seeing but falls short of being a great historical film. Peter Landesman simply doesn't have the directing experience to make this work. I am sure he is a brilliant man but his directing lacks experience. His previous work that I have seen (Trade-See my review) could have been an amazing, stunning film but due to his direction it missed some crucial things and same could be said for this. Yes, my expectations were high but it ended up only delivering on the most basic level. 7/10
***Side note--I attended the North American Premier at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday September 6th/2013. I had the opportunity to shake hands and speak briefly with Tom Welling. I am not stating this to brag but rather more for my own benefit so when I look back on this review I can fondly remember my first premier! Thanks everyone who read my reviews!!***
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, most if not all of the low/negative reviews are based
upon lack of questioning the events that transpired. This is not a
conspiracy theory fueled film. The aim of this film is to document the
immediate aftermath of President Kennedy's assassination through 4
different story lines and it does just that.
Maybe I'm a little bit biased because it's one of my favorite historical events to research and learn about, but I found it to be an insightful and well done look at the people who became involved after the event, without showing/repeating most of the general information that most, if not all viewers familiar with the assassination are already aware of.
I, for one, am satisfied that they did not blatantly show the entire Zapruder film once the FBI obtained and developed it. Not because I'm squeamish, but because although some may be, and also that this film is not primarily set on the actual assassination itself but rather the emotion and reactions felt afterward.
However, I do wish that they had shown more of Lee Oswald than they did. But then again like I previously said, most people who have researched the case have seen the videos and know the story (based on the Warren Commission at least) of Oswald's whereabouts and his part in shooting the President.
People complaining there's not enough "conspiracy" or lack of Oswald in the story, feel free to watch Oliver Stone's JFK instead, or open up a YouTube search and have at it.
So if you read everything I wrote, or just skipped down here, Parkland is an insightful look at the immediate aftermath of Kennedy's assassination and is highly recommended for fellow history buffs in general, or those interested in learning about the events surrounding November 22, 1963.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy has been recanted in countless movies and television shows for the past 20 years. So what makes Parkland any different from Oliver Stone's JFK or the miniseries The Kennedys? The difference is that this film is in no way, shape or form a political film. This is NOT a conspiracy film, this is not a political family saga, this is a story that we have never been shown. The people who surrounded JFK on his final hours are the people that saw the true horrors of November 22 and Parkland puts us right there with them. The cast is masterful, Billy Bob Thorton, Zac Effron, and Paul Giamatti being the stand outs of the impressive list. The story is impactful, showing the audience what Parkland hospital was really like that fateful day when President Kennedy was brutally murdered. The hysteria, the sweat, the tears and the blood fill the emergency room as a determined Zac Effron pounds on the chest of Kennedy's body. It is moments like these that save Parkland from the cheesier scenes, notably any with Ron Livingston. The film succeeds partially to Effron's small but commanding performance and a latter half of the film focused on a brooding Robert Oswald, who is played pitch perfectly by James Badge Dale. The film doesn't break any new ground in the dramatic factor but instead reminds us of how good these actors can be in the right setting. The story is split between the actual events of the assassination, the search and capture of Oswald, and the colossal screw up at the FBI that may or may not have prevented Kennedy's assassination. In any sense, Parkland works with the 90 minute running time despite so much information coming at you at once, which sometimes works against its advantages, making for a confusing watch for a couple minutes before you can have time to process what is going on. Despite a jarring narrative at times, Parkland succeeds in performances alone and is worth it for that alone.
¨It's the first time that the secret service has lost a president under
I'm actually surprised I enjoyed this film so much considering the bad reviews it has been receiving and my lack of knowledge on the historical details about the assassination of John F Kennedy. There have been many films made about this specific event, but very few have taken this approach where you get to experience things through the eyes of secondary characters and people behind the scenes like the Parkland medical staff that had to attend the president, or Oswald's brother who is shocked to hear his brother has shot the president. The apparently small scaled moments of this tragic event (like how the medical staff decide to keep the president's boxers on during surgery to preserve his dignity, or the urgency with which the Secret Service agents were trying to get a film of the assassination developed, or how Robert Oswald reacts when he hears that his brother is the prime suspect of the murder) are what truly make this film gripping and unique. The film has its flaws such as failing to have narrative cohesion and the characters are underdeveloped at times, but I think it worked really well considering everything happened so fast and these people had to make split second decisions. The overall feeling of chaos and messiness of the events that took place really transcend here as everything happens so fast and the film is reduced to a length of merely 90 minutes. The film follows a semi documentary style that totally works because you can feel the tension and urgency with which they had to deal with during such a catastrophic event. Parkland is Peter Landesman's first feature film and somehow the movie touched me in a way that apparently hasn't touched most audiences or critics. I didn't expect to like this film as much as I did, but I really felt engaged from the very opening scenes up to the very end. It doesn't offer new insight to a popular historical event, but it does tell the story differently. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death this might be a movie worth checking out (just don't go into it thinking you are going to get another Oliver Stone JFK). The film's strongest strength relies on this sense of urgency and how it depicts the events in real time as everyone had to make life changing decisions in a matter of seconds. But it also seems to be its weakness as many consider it to be a little too over the place and chaotic with little cohesiveness.
The film follows the tragic events that occurred in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 involving the assassination of President John F Kennedy. The story focuses on the perspective of the people in the sidelines that witnessed the event first hand like the medical staff in Parkland Hospital that were there that tragic day. Young Doctor Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) was the resident doctor that day in Parkland, and some of the nurses that were there to assist him were Nurse Doris (Marcia Gay Harden) and the emergency room nurse played by Mallory Moye. We get another perspective of that day through the eyes of a small businessman named Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), who happened to capture the assassination on his Super 8 camera. We also see things through the eyes of Dallas's chief of the Secret Service, Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), an FBI agent named James Hosty (Ron Livingston) who was investigating Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong), and Lee Harvey's brother Robert (James Badge Dale) and mother (Jacki Weaver) who react differently to the news about the murder. All these different perspectives are weaved together giving us an engaging film and different insight into what was going on. Tom Welling, Mark Duplass, Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley, and Kat Steffens all play secondary characters in this star studded cast.
There were some strong performances in this film although not really Oscar worthy. I specially liked James Badge Dale in this film who gives a quiet but brave performance, while Paul Giamatti rings true with his emotional performance as he has to deal with the pain of viewing the horrific event he captured on camera. The rest of the cast didn't really stand out considering they all had very little screen time, but it was good to see some of these talented actors working together. Jacki Weaver is a talented actress and she proves it once again in this small role. The cast is solid and the script is also pretty engaging. I was glad everything was depicted so fast and that the film didn't run too long.
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