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dir-scr Peter Landesman
prd Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Gary Goetzman, Matt Jackson
with Zac Efron, James Badge Dale, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Ron Livingston, Colin Hanks, Jacki Weaver, Tom Welling, Marcia Gay Harden, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Duplass, Gil Bellows
release US 4.Oct.13, UK 8.Nov.13
Heroic measures: Harden and Efron
VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With a documentary sense of detail, this film recounts JFK's assassination from a variety of previously unseen angles. It's skilfully made but lacks any sense of focus that might draw us in. There isn't a single well-developed character, and it oddly doesn't even centre on the hospital that gives the film its name.
On 22 November 1963, John F Kennedy has barely touched down in Dallas when his motorcade is hit by gunfire. Dying in his wife's arms, he's taken to Parkland Hospital, where two residents (Efron and Hanks) work against the odds to revive him. Meanwhile, a local FBI man (Livingston) is following a lead that he may have met the shooter, whose brother and mother (Dale and Weaver) react in very different ways. And a Secret Service agent (Thornton) gets a copy of the home movie made by the shaken Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti).
Writer-director Landesman dives into the events without establishing these characters, so we never understand how they're coping with what happens around them. The actors all bring curiosity, fear and tenacity to their scenes, but since we don't know anything about these people, we can't identify with them. Over the course of three days, the only actors who register emotionally are Giamatti and Dale.
Landesman's decision to widen the film beyond the hospital is the main problem. If the story had focussed on the staff (including steely nurse Harden and priest Haley), the movie would have had a much stronger kick. Especially since they appear in two important sequences. But the script widens to include the FBI and Secret Service, the Oswald family and the team that takes Air Force One back to Washington.
Along the way there are remarkably eye-opening scenes, such as the logistics of getting the president's coffin onto the plane. And we are also reminded of how much the world has changed, as Zapruder was the only person filming, and it took hours to get it processed and copied. But the most striking fact is that, for all the detail we have, there are still an alarming number of gaps in the story. And while this film nicely dramatises a moment in history, it simply doesn't work as a drama.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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