Article Reviews

JFK: The movie that won’t go away Essay

Posted on

JFK
Actors: Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones

Directed by Oliver Stone

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

This movie is about New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who doesn’t like what he sees concerning the investigation of John F Kennedy’s assignation.  His investigation leads him deeper than he could have ever imagined into the world of government conspiracies.

The mirror of distortion
The movie is accurate in the fact that Kennedy was shot, Johnson did become president, the Vietnam War occurred and Jim Garrison did prosecute the only trial in the Kennedy assignation.  The rest of the movie is the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. The grassy knoll theory is brought forward; a theory we now know has been quashed thanks to modern forensic techniques. [1]  Stone also repeatedly pounds the viewer with the exit wounds’ theories and the incompetence of the Dallas doctors, despite the fact that prominent modern pathologists have reviewed and agreed the wounds are consistent with the shot that Oswald took.[2]  Of course, there is hinting that the actual photos and films of the assassination have been doctored and altered, but recent examination of the films proves there was no such event. [3]

The truth of the times
Perhaps the most accurate part of the film is the portrayal of the nation in mourning. Garrison’s wife and his housekeeper, represent the common people of the nation.  Their reactions are the reactions of the millions of Americans in that day and age. The one other clear accuracy, is in Garrison’s summary speech and can be summed up as “the system we love has been corrupted and it’s up to every citizen to fight it in order to save it.”[4] This shows the essence of Garrison, however wrong he may have been, and should be considered the moral of this film.

Devoid of reality?
Probably the two most important deviations from reality are the fictional characters, Mr. X and Willie O’Keefe.  Mr. X was loosely based on one of the films contributors- Colonel Fletcher Prouty.[5]  He was the one that questioned the NSAM that Lyndon Johnson signed and made the controversy over the troop withdrawal. However, recent investigation shows that the one Lyndon signed was dated the day before Kennedy was shot and therefore was part of the Kennedy administration.[6]

Willie O’Keefe was a composite of four of Garrison’s witnesses, Perry Russo, David Logan, Raymond Broshears, and William Morris, and is based on Prouty’s information as well.[7]  These two characters add more to the drama of the film but tend to lessen its historical accuracy.

Setting the mood
Stone’s use of newsreel footage and the grainy look of much of the film help draw

 the viewer back into the early sixties.  The eerie overlay technique he used to turn Gary Oldman into Lee Harvey Oswald made you feel like you were looking at ghosts summoned from the past.

Fueling the misconceptions

This film is a virtual wasteland of myths and misconceptions.  It dredges up all the favorite conspiracy theories about Kennedy, the grassy knoll, the magic bullet, and adds more fuel to the fire by conjuring up a Mr. X and throwing in Cuba for good measure. This film does do one thing- it creates a “grand unified conspiracy theory.”[8]

The time we live in
Stone was reflecting the mid life crisis of the baby boomer generation when he created this film. The boomers had just come through the eighties and emerged as the self indulgent BMW driving yuppies.  In this movie he reminds the generation that opposed Vietnam that they had become the thing they hated most- “the establishment”. He also shows that fewer and fewer people trusted the government and conspiracy theories were not just something paranoid schizophrenics ran around spouting.

Conclusion
JFK, if you take it as a pure work of fiction, is a enjoyable movie and the kind of movie that makes you think. Its cast of characters read like a list of Who’s Who in Hollywood, the soundtrack was done by John Williams (of Star Wars fame), and it even won an Oscar for editing.[9] However, taking it as historical fact or even a plausible alternative, it falls quite short. To quote one writer “It’s the worst great movie I’ve ever seen.” [10]
Bibliography

David W Moore 2001. False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison’s Investigation and Oliver

Stone’s Film JFK. . The Journal of Southern History 67, no. 4 (November 1): 904.  http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.apus.edu/ (accessed November 29, 2008).

Cohen, Jacob 1992. Yes, Oswald Alone Killed Kennedy. Commentary, June 1, 32.

http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.apus.edu/ (accessed November 29, 2008).

Salamon, Julie 1991. Film: An ‘Alternate Myth’ about the Murder of JFK.  Wall Street

Journal, December 19, Eastern Edition. Http:/ www.proquest.com. Ezproxy.apus.edu/  (accessed November 29, 2008).

Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992),

Albert Auster 2000. The Bacchae, the “missing prince,” and Oliver Stone’s Presidential

films. Journal of Popular Film & Television 28, no. 1 (April 1): 30-35.  http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.apus.edu/ (accessed November 29, 2008).

Stone, Oliver. 1991 JFK Warner Brothers Pictures USA

[1] Moore, 2001, False Witness, Journal of Southern History pg 904
[2] Cohen, Jacob 1992. Yes, Oswald Alone Killed Kennedy. Commentary, June 1, 32
[3] Cohen, 32

[4] Salamon, Julie 1991. Film: An ‘Alternate Myth’ about the Murder of JFK.  Wall Street

Journal, December 19, Eastern Edition.
[5] Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992),
[6] Cohen 32
[7] Stone and Sklaar, pg 105
[8] Albert Auster 2000. The Bacchae, the “missing prince,” and Oliver Stone’s Presidential films. Journal of Popular Film ; Television 28, no. 1 (April 1): 30-35
[9] Salamon, Julie 1991. Film: An ‘Alternate Myth’ about the Murder of JFK
[10] David W Moore 2001. False Witness