Can our government really stage a coup d’etat? Did it? These questions never came up more than after Oliver Stone’s JFK came out in 1991.
Whether Stone is simply a conspiracy theorist or whether Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner), who wrote the book upon which the film is based, was merely out on a vendetta and used his JFK fixation to exhaust his cause doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t add up.
Where there’s smoke, there’s usually a fire. Sometimes there’s nothing. And then sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about it.
That’s where Stone came in and ambitiously set out to dispel the Warren Commission Report, which, if anything, is as much of a fabrication as some have criticized JFK for being. He succeed in that goal. The persuasive argument made here is enough to make even the coldest of hearts take pause and perhaps buy in to the conspiracy — even for a short while.
The truth is blurred throughout the film into a haze of questions. Who killed Kennedy? Why was he killed? Who benefited?
Who was Lee Harvey Oswald really working for? Castro, or Kennedy himself? Or both?
These are scary notions that are jumbled in a beautiful piece of film that captures the essence of America, from questioning one’s government to fighting for it at the same time.
The film benefits from looking back on history almost 30 years later. However, even seeing the Zapruder film during the courtroom scene, during which Kennedy’s slaying is shown again and again, is tough to swallow.
But it’s in the courtroom scene when Stone invokes his most dramatic flare, with Costner — delivering his finest performance — at the forefront of the thorough explanation of everything we’ve seen during the two hours prior.
It’s Costner’s conviction to Garrison’s drive for the truth that ruptures through the screen, and even inspires some to pick up the torch where he left it — being the only man to bring prosecution in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
It drove away his colleagues, his children and his wife, Liz (Sissy Spacek). Jim’s obsession becomes the most clear during an argument with Liz, when she tells him he’s changed. “Of course I’ve changed,” he said. “My eyes have opened, and once they’re open, believe me, what used to look normal now seems insane … Can’t you see?”
She replies: “I don’t want to see … I’m tired.”
Liz represents the rest of the country, who just wanted to get life back to normal amid a time when anyone who looked to make a change — the Kennedy brothers, MLK Jr. — were killed for it. It’s here when Jim’s isolation is maximized.
The only flaw the film has is that it may have too much packed in. Stone did so much research that it seems, at times, he was too unwilling to kill his babies. But this movie was made by a paranoid man, and who’s to say the parts he’d leave out would be the missing piece to the most impossible puzzle? Rather, he cocks back and throws it all at his viewers, thus allowing them to assemble it themselves.
By the end, the only conclusion that can be made is it doesn’t add up. And it’s a frightening thought to think our government could have had a hand in it.
Contact Will Albritton at firstname.lastname@example.org