johnlink ranks PARKLAND (2013)

Stumbled on this movie, quite by accident, just as it was starting up. I had no idea what PARKLAND was, and certainly no notion that it might pertain to the JFK assassination. But, having seen it, I’m glad that I did.


I watched PARKLAND (2013) on 11.12.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

PARKLAND is a film about those on the periphery of the Kennedy assassination in the hours and days after the incident. The film barely depicts JFK, and barely takes time with his wife or his assassin. Instead, this movie focuses on Parkland, the hospital which would see the final breathes of both Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, and many of the people who witnessed it. In a brief 90 minute film, this movie manages to cover a lot of ground.

One thread involves the doctors and nurses in the hospital. This includes Dr. Carrico (a surprisingly effective and understated Zac Efron) and lead nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden). We see the physical trauma they must wade through as well as the emotional trauma left in the wake of watching the President die on their table. It all bubbles back up when, later, a shot Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong) gets brought in shot.

Another focus of the movie, and maybe the best bits, involve Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale). He is the brother of the murderer. He attempts to help the police while also attempting reconcile what his brother has done. Later, of course, he must bury his brother. All of this happens while his delusional mother (Jacki Weaver) attempts to figure out how all of this can make her rich while proclaiming that Lee was merely a government agent doing the government’s bidding.

Yet another story line focuses on the FBI office in Dallas. Oswald was being tracked by the office but they thought him inconsequential. His handling agent, James Hosty (Ron Livingston), is dealing with the knowledge that Oswald was in his line of sight, but he never recognized him as a danger.

The final major story involves the Secret Service. They attempt to bring dignity to JFK’s travels post-death. They struggle with their obvious failure and what it means to them as men. They also, under the direction of Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) attempt to discover the exact contents of the soon-to-be infamous film shot by Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti).

This is an anti-conspiracy theory film, which is refreshing. While Oliver Stone’s JFK did a marvelous job creating doubt (often times at the obvious expense of truth), PARKLAND present the events as the background to the immediate negative impact this terrible moment in history had on a whole range of people. This film is at its best in the quiet moments when these men and women have a chance to catch their breath and try to process something which is incomprehensible.

It also, surprisingly, works very well as a suspense film. Even though we all know the events as they are about to unfold, seeing this all happen matters as seen through the eyes of people who’s perspective we have never considered. I wouldn’t call this a fun film, not by any stretch, but it gets your heart rate up and rarely slows down. If there is a complaint to be made, it is that history doesn’t give all of these characters we follow that perfect revealing moment. Sorrels’ exit, for one, feels anti-climatic even as we know we have seen the last of him by the way he exits the frame.

PARKLAND, despite that small complaint, is good filmmaking. Writer/Director Peter Landesman has a compelling story to tell, and he does an effective job in conveying it. Usually a famous story stuffed with big names in small parts is a signpost for lazy movie making. But, with PARKLAND, there proves to be an exception to that rule. This is one worth finding.




FINAL SCORE: 7.25 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on November 13, 2014.

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