Fact or fiction? Truth or lies? These are the questions that have plagued director Oliver Stone's JFK since it's premiere in 1991. By dealing directly with the possibility that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a conspiracy, JFK challenges the U.S. government's official position that his murder was the act of a lone gunman.
The man at the center of JFK is Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), who, in 1967, became the first prosecutor to bring an individual to trial for their alleged participation in the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. The defendant, respected New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones), was rumored to have had connections with the CIA in 1963, and may have even had business dealings with Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman), the man the government has named as the lone assassin. Despite mounting adversity, Garrison manages to spark the interest of the entire country, and for the first time, America realizes just how deep the cover-up of those tragic events of Nov. 22, 1963, truly ran.
JFK is a textbook example of perfect cinematic pacing; a chain of events weaved together so flawlessly, and with such amazing flair, that it's nearly impossible to look away. Something is always happening, from shocking revelations piled one on top of the other to back room gossip that proves more reliable than recorded fact. For a motion picture that has very few action scenes, JFK is nevertheless an exciting ride, a thriller as exhilarating as any I've ever seen. Through sharp editing and an extensive use of flashbacks, Oliver Stone has succeeded in keeping us on the edge of our seat for the better part of three and a half hours.
Yet, despite the film's artistic triumphs, we always return to the question of what is truth, and what is fabrication. The facts as presented in JFK have been attacked on several fronts, with Oliver Stone standing accused by some of perpetrating outright lies in order to make his film more intriguing. But then, many of the so-called "facts" presented in the Warren Commission report, which, to this day, remains the U.S. Government's official account of what happened in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, are themselves pretty outlandish (chief among them the “Single Bullet Theory”, which established that a solitary bullet, found in nearly perfect condition on a stretcher at Dallas' Parkland Hospital, defied gravity by inflicting seven different wounds, not only to President Kennedy, but Texas Governor John Connelly as well).
In Oliver Stone's defense, he has provided us with an entertaining, exciting, thought-provoking account of what might have happened, and all these years later, we have yet to see or read anything on this topic that does any better than that.
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