Thursday, November 27, 2014

JFK (1991)

Director: Oliver Stone
Writers:  Oliver Stone, Zachary Sklar
Cast:       Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones

A New Orleans DA discovers there's is more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.  He disputes the Warren Commission's lone assassin theory and contends that multiple shooters were involved which by default makes it an act of conspiracy. 

Am not a big fan of Oliver Stone. Platoon was great while I found the rest of the films that I have seen of his to be average (Scarface, Natural Born Killers & Any Given Sunday). I am also not a big fan of 'Conspiracy Theories' because I don't think it is quite possible to keep a lid on what they accused to be conspiratorial involving a large number of people. So I was really not that inclined to watch JFK but I think the situation in US is such that it is not a stretch to believe that such an assassination to be carried out involving people occupying the highest of its intelligence community. I have been listening to Dan Carlin's 'Hardcore History' podcast lately and there was this one episode in which he discussed the cases of World leaders being under the influence of things they were taking which might have affected their decision making. He cites Napoleon, Hitler and Kennedy as some examples of people who were administered a lot of drugs by their doctors that won't be acceptable  these days. Kennedy's case is unique because his medical records, that were declassified recently, offers us access to see whether he could have been under the influence while we cannot say anything for sure about the older leaders. Kennedy was taking a lot of steroids and other stuff from a doctor whose license was revoked years later for doing the same for different pop stars. That reminded me of a theory which said that CIA assassinated him basically because his decision making was very impulsive and that he almost started a nuclear war. So it is suffice to say that I was kind of primed to watch this film.

The film won praise for its editing and it was very important for it to make sense to the audience with the use of flashbacks, reenactments and what not especially with its running time of close to three and half hours (Director's cut). Still I found the first half of the film, which basically is an investigation into who Lee Oswald was, to be quite boring with  an average script. Still it is essential for it to be there for you to buy the conspiracy theory that the film is advocating in its second half. Kennedy, in his time as US President with decisions on Cuba, Soviet Union, CIA oversight (through McNamara) etc, could have been assassinated for various different reasons and the film points the fingers at US intelligence community and Defense Department with their motive being Kennedy's decision to withdraw from Vietnam. Post war US being a War machine which looks for it in all places so that the various businesses could line their pockets from it is a  position that has been strengthened due to Dubya and his neo-cons' excursions in Iraq. I found the second half of the film, which went into answering 'Whydunnit', to be more interesting but I don't know whether it was because I watched the film over two days. 

Many can argue about the veracity of what Oliver Stone is claiming but all have to admit that it is great film-making. His attitude was that against what he claims to be a fictional myth like Warren Commission's version of the event should be a counter-myth from his side. At the end of the film it states that all the documents connecting to the event will be declassified by late 2020s only but after the release of the film JFK act was passed which led to the formation of Assassination Records Review made (ARRB) because of which  declassification will occur as early as 2017. Films don't matter, eh?

Obvious parallels could be made with Costa Gavras' 'Z' and Kurosawa's 'Rashomon'. Stone himslef said that Z was more of an influence with it also featuring a political assassination in a fascist state. Oliver Stone, himself a Vietnam war veteran, has made plenty of Vietnam war films and JFK can also be considered to be one of them. As for the question of believing the conspiracy theory surrounding JFK assassination- am inclined to buy it. JFK is certainly Oliver Stone's best film.

Rating: 4.5/5