JFK (1991) starring Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, Jack Lemmon, Laurie Metcalf, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci directed by Oliver Stone Movie Review

JFK (1991)   5/55/55/55/55/5

Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison in JFK

Stoned on Conspiracy

Having only been in office for just over two years, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated whilst driving through Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Although a popular leader, he had caused quite a stir with his tough policies and campaigns which investigated underworld crime. After the initial chaos, and upset caused by the murder of a much loved President, died down. A single gun man, Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of the murder, but before he could be brought to trial, he was murdered by night club owner Jack Ruby.

Even though the official investigation by the Warren Commission stated that the Presidents death was caused by a solitary gun man, New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison believed that the Warren Commission was covering up the truth. After taking it upon himself to investigate the commissions findings further, he discovered a connection between Oswald and some very shady characters, including a New Orleans business man, Clay Shaw, who not only was connected to the CIA, but also had connections in the Cuban community. Believing that he had uncovered the truth, he attempted to bring Shaw to justice for the conspiracy to kill President Kennedy.

Kevin Costner and Donald Sutherland in JFK

Although JFK is based upon real events, director Oliver Stone has taken these and used a fair bit of poetic licence and created what is not only a modern day epic, but also a master class in how to make an exceptional movie. Even though the film does come across as slightly biased, with Oliver Stone using the big screen to demonstrate his opinions on the President Kennedy assassination, JFK is one of the most gripping movies to have hit our screens in the last twenty years and in all honesty takes more than just one viewing to fully comprehend not only the story line, but also the stunning performances, brilliant direction and also to realise that it leaves pondering whether there was in fact a conspiracy to cover up the truth over President Kennedy's murder.

The film revolves around the investigations of District Attorney Jim Garrison, as he attempts to prove the official findings of the Warren Commission to be part of a huge conspiracy to cover up the truth behind President Kennedy's murder. In fact, the trial against Clay Shaw has been the only trial to date to do with the assassination of President Kennedy. What is basically a retelling of events, turns into a very gripping thriller, full of intrigue and mystery as bits of the puzzle fall into place over the duration of the entire film. Of course, anyone who is familiar with the events of the Garrison story will inevitably find the story predictable, and may even be a bit annoyed by the poetic licence used to create such a compelling film. But having watched JFK on numerous occasions, I honestly believe it gets better with each viewing, the story is still as thrilling as the first time and each time you notice something new or find yourself questioning something about the JFK assassination.

Even though the majority of characters in the film are based on real people involved in the President Kennedy assassination and the Garrison investigation, they are as interesting as any made up character and you find yourself being mesmerised by the smallest of characters. With Kevin Costner putting in one of his finest performances as Garrison, JFK has a solid lead which carries you through the movie. But some of the best performances come from some of Hollywood's leading Actors and Actresses, who may only be on screen for a couple of scenes, but give such intense performances that they are all worthy of Oscar nominations. With stars such as Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon and John Candy to name just a few, JFK is definitely not short of major stars.

No matter how biased the film may come across, director Oliver Stone has created not only a magnificently entertaining film but also a master class for all budding directors on how to make brilliant movies. If you just take a look at his eye for accuracy and set detail, the film really does take you back in time to just after the Kennedy era. Then if you take the performances of the cast, and not just the major stars, Stone has extracted from each and every actor, no matter how big their role is, a performance which would surely rank as one of their best. Plus his approach to telling the story through mainly narrative, rather than out of place action sequences, is truly outstanding, you can find yourself mesmerised by the screen as you take in so much detail from the narrative. Add to this the mix of real life footage from the Kennedy assassination and staged scenes with actors, where you start to find it difficult to differentiate between the two and you have a movie which will keep you transfixed for its entire duration as well as subsequent viewings.

There are not many movies which are as gripping and as enjoyable to watch on subsequent viewings as they are on their first, but JFK is definitely one of them. It may have its flaws when it comes to the time line of events and the amount of poetic licence used to get its viewpoint across. But JFK is still a modern day thriller which could not only be described as an epic, but also as a lesson in how to make a nearly perfect movie. Even those who doubt Costner's acting ability will be pleasantly surprised by the scale of his performance along with the cavalcade of stars that make the movies credits read like a Who's Who of Hollywood.