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JFK (1991) – Review

4 Stars

Oliver Stone has made a number of powerful films in his career but none of his other works compare to the unflinching and absolutely engrossing experience of viewing JFK. Working from a script he co-authored Stone is able to get across an amazing amount of information, speculation and doubt in a movie that runs over three hours but feels much shorter. Although the film is dense its never confusing and that is one its strengths. The enormous production features over two dozen speaking roles most of whom are cast with familiar faces and covers a four year period in the life of New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) in which he brought a reputed conspirator to trial.

The film is meticulously constructed and hurls itself across the screen before ending with a courtroom sequence in which Garrison takes on the ‘magic bullet’ theory and the Warren Commission report. Stone’s touches are apparent in almost every scene and the film is a richer more engrossing experience for it. This is not the subject matter for a timid director to take on. It took Stone several years to get this project off the ground and after some initial backpedalling Warner Bros. financed the film, which turned out to be a box-office hit and critical darling. JFK was nominated in every major category in it’s OSCAR campaign; yet failed to bring home trophies save for Tommy Lee Jones’s Best Supporting Actor turn as Clay Shaw a homosexual CIA liaison possibly involved with the conspiracy.

The movie has a startling impact on any viewer that watches with an uncynical eye. It’s a profoundly moving experience that manages to frighten and enlighten audiences today as much as it did in its initial theatrical release. Not only is JFK the best film of 1991 it is also one of the greatest filmmaking achievements of all time. An eerily moody and commanding score from John Williams is also outstanding.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman and Jack Lemmon