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Strangef8

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JFK (1991)
151 out of 213 people found the following review useful:
Past the controversy, 3 July 2004

In the time since I first saw the film "JFK", I have found myself inexplicably drawn to the events in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963. I have researched online and in libraries to learn the truth of these events, and I would say that my outlook on those matters has changed substantially. But underneath that, and the controversy that developed from it, there is one universal and almost indisputable truth regarding the film: JFK is simply an excellent movie. And no difference of opinion can refute this.

I have seen my fair share of films over the years, I'm not a cinema maniac by any means. But I think I can judge a quality product when I see one and that's simply what this picture presents. It is, as Tom Wicker of the New York Times said at it's release, propaganda; but the same can be said for every film by Michael Moore... of whom I'm NOT a fan... but they are still strong pictures.

JFK runs the difficult task of presenting fact, fiction, conjecture and opinion, twisting them all to present the increasingly difficult to dispute conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone (and according to director Oliver Stone, did not act) in the assassination of President Kennedy.

The films accomplishments though, past this controversial thesis, are many: 1.) Kevin Costner turns in one of the greatest performances of his career. While his accent is stronger than Garrison and the physical resemblance not astonishing, Costner three dimensionalizes a character and lives in it throughout the film.

2.) An impressive and versatile cast is used superbly. The film is loaded with quality stars such as Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones (in an Oscar nominated role), Gary Oldman, and Joe Pesci (who share an intense and crucial scene); as well as character actors and actresses such as Michael Rooker, Sissy Spacek, and Jay Saunders. Stone even navigates a dramatic turn from the late comedy great John Candy and utilizes Hollywood legends Ed Asner, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Donald Sutherland superbly.

3.) With the possible exception of the lone gunman theory, every possibility of truth is explored, at least in dialogue. Because the case has never been fully elaborated on no one can say for certain what the truth is; Stone presents all views while advancing his theory.

4.) The film is a masterwork of editing. It won the Oscar for film editing in 1991, and deserved it. I once read in Entertainment Weekly that a normal film has roughly 200 cuts in it; there are more than sixty in the opening minutes alone here. Even more impressive when you consider the variety of film used.

JFK is not absolute fact, it does not truly pretend to be. By Stone's own admission, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Rooker, and Kevin Bacon play composites or dramatized characters, not the real thing. But standing alone as a movie, JFK is untouchably excellent. And if it does force you to question, as Costner's Garrison asks in the closing moments "of what is our government made?", then it's all for the better.