A good conspiracy thriller can be highly entertaining. I’ve mentioned before my enthusiasm for films such as Capricorn One and The Parallax View. And one of the greatest conspiracy theories in the real world concerns the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, so it’s a wonder that it’s taken me so long to get round to watching Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie JFK. But at last I’ve watched it.
The film won a couple of Oscars, and it’s notable for an excellent cast. Kevin Costner plays Garrison, an attorney who decides that JFK was victim of an establishment plot, and his performance is very powerful. His wife is played by Sissy Spacek, and other stellar names are Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Donald Sutherland and Ed Asner. The soundtrack is written by the excellent John Williams. All very impresive.
I am not familiar with the detail of the various theories about Kennedy’s murder, and my understanding is that, although Garrison was indeed a real-life crusader for the truth about the killing, there is an element (some would say, a large element) of fiction in Stone’s version of the story.
This is a very long film indeed, and I have to admit that, despite my admiration for Costner, there were a number of times when my attention wandered. I may not know the truth about the case, but more importantly, I’m not sure that Oliver Stone does. There were moments when I did feel almost as if I were being repeatedly coshed by an angry person, determined to hammer his ideas into my head. I wasn’t anticipating such a test of endurance. Overall, JFK seemed to me to be a film with genuine merit, but by no means the masterpiece I’d hoped for. Maybe my expectations were just too high, maybe I wasn't in quite the right mood for it. But I do think that it would have appealed to me more had it been about an hour shorter.