Sunday, March 16, 2014


Directed by Peter Landesman. 
2013. Rated R, 93 minutes. 

As we were all reminded last year, during which the 50th anniversary of the event occurred, Pres. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963. Parkland tells the story of what happened starting a few moments before he was shot until the time he was buried a few days later. The title refers to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where Pres. Kennedy was taken after being shot. We go there with him and go through the attempts to save his life, headed up by Dr. Jim Carrico (Efron), a very young doctor, and seasoned head nurse Doris Nelson (Harden). We see how first the Secret Service and then hordes of media folk descend upon Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti) when it becomes known that he caught the tragedy on film. We're also privy to the fed's handling of Lee Harvey Oswald (Strong) and his family. Finally, we deal with the shift in focus to protecting Lyndon B. Johnson who suddenly found himself President of the United States.

The fly on the wall perspective makes this about as close to being there as a movie is likely to get. To perpetuate that feeling, the camera is often in odd locations. A lot of times it is at a distance we would normally think of as too close. We can't make out much of the rooms these people are in. This is particularly true of the scenes in the operating room. It helps foster the feeling of being in a crowded space with almost no wiggle room. Outside the hospital, this technique hints at how little each person involved was really aware of, or could see from their vantage point.

In keeping with its documentary like survey of events, the acting is so good across the board it feels like we are watching the actual people live through a moment in history. Paul Giamatti and Marcia Gay Harden are, excellent as always. Billy Bob Thornton simply dominates the screen in one of his better, but bound to be underrated performances. Even Zac Efron impresses. His portrayal of Dr. Carrico rings true right from the start. In the film's showiest performance, Jacki Weaver is absolutely mind-blowing as Lee Harvey Oswald's mother Marguerite. She quickly becomes a person we love to hate, possibly even more than her son who killed arguably the most beloved U.S. president of the 20th century. Kudos to Weaver for completely selling it. Conversely, the person we most sympathize with is her other son Robert played with remorse for his brother's actions by James Badge Dale.

Clocking in at a shade under ninety minutes when you subtract the credits, it is a movie that moves at an extraordinary pace. It packs each frame to the gills and sprints by. As fast as it moves, it has no time to do what a lot of movies based on true events can. There is no theorizing about grassy knolls, second shooters, and the like. There also doesn't appear to be much in the way of agenda pushing. It just punches us right in the mouth with the most corroborated parts of a still mysterious story. It ends without any speculation whatsoever. Therefore, Parkland is certainly not the most contemplative JFK movie you'll ever see, but it's likely the most visceral one.

MY SCORE: 9/10


  1. I've mostly seen moderate-to-negative reviews of this one, but your review has definitely pushed me to give it a go. A like hearing that it moves quickly.

    1. Yeah, I seem to be alone on this island. Fine by me. I thought it worked really well. And it is a quick watch.