Movie Review – Parkland

That’s right – this baby is SPOILER-FREE!



IMDB Rating: 6 out of 10 (1,393 votes)

Director: Peter Landesman

The poster for Parkland.

The poster for Parkland.

I see the JFK Assasination as one of the darkest days in American history, and even perhaps world history for that matter. When the most important man in the world is taken down, it really does make you think about how safe we really are, and how totally insane some people really are. ‘Parkland’ is a movie much less concerned with the wider reaction of that day, instead worrying about the personal influence JFK’s death had on the people around him (and the killer), making it a little less corny and bringing it’s own telling of the tale to the forefront. I liked ‘Parkland’; not because it was revelatory and delivered an out-of-this-world conspiracy theory, but because it tapped into who these people around JFK and LHO really were, and why they love their country. I’m a fan of settled and open-eyed patriotism, and ‘Parkland’ isn’t pushy about it, which is a perfect fit for a dark topic such as this.

I’d find it very easy to believe that the director, Peter Landesman, had always had an interest in both filmmaking, and the JFK Assasination. I can find this easy to believe because that’s what it felt like to me: elements of cinema showcased around an interesting event that has already happened. ‘Parkland’ has that sense about it that you know it’s Landesman’s first shot at big filmmaking, so he’s essentially experimenting with what cinema can do. One thing he delivers really well is juxtaposition.

If you don’t know what juxtaposition is, let me give you the best example possible. In ‘The Godfather’, Michael Corleone is at a baptism, where he will officially become the child’s godfather. Michael is asked by the priest, “Do you renounce satan?” We then cut between Michael’s hired henchmen killing the rest of the New York crime families, and Michael’s admission that in fact he does renounce satan, and believes in god. I won’t explain much more; just watch it here.

The juxtaposition in ‘Parkland’ really kicks in during the last 10 minutes of the film. JFK has been killed, and Lee Harvey Oswald has also been shot. We follow a man destroying evidence of LHO being right under the FBI’s nose, then cut to Oswald being lowered into his grave, signifying how the evidence ‘dies with him’. Another example is when we see stock footage of JFK’s funeral, with Mrs. Kennedy saying her goodbyes, and also Mrs. Oswald saying her goodbyes. I liked how ‘Parkland’ wasn’t afraid to say what was on it’s mind, and make brave comparisons between two people in complete opposite situations.

The man with the cam.

The man with the cam.

One thing I also really did admire about ‘Parkland’ was how John Landesman shot it all. His collaboration with cinematographer Barry Ackroyd is sublime; Ackroyd gives us some of the more spectacular setting shots we’ve seen all year. But Landesman, who I’m 99% sure shot this all on handheld camera, gives it the hue to make it look similar to how we think it should. Like an Instagram filter, only better.

Landesman would have shot it all on handheld to mimic what one of the main characters was doing at the time of the assassination, and make us feel like what we’re watching is just one big home movie. It may make the weak of heart a little dizzy, but I liked it; it was a nice touch.

The cast is mainly pretty good. People seem to have a problem with Zac Efron doing anything except awful, awful movies (I thought Hairspray was pretty good and he’s a talented guy), and Efron does his bit here. The nurses and attendants around him are good, too. But the standouts are easily Paul Giamatti and Billy Bob Thornton. These two characters are written with such emotional depth, and conflicting emotions, which really rings true to how it may have been in  a time of distress like that. Giamatti does a great job playing the deer in the headlights, and we get the sense that Billy Bob Thornton’s character, leader of the Secret Service, knows that he’s not going to last long after this; it’s just in the way he talks.

‘Parkland’ isn’t a breakthrough political drama because it really doesn’t offer much heavily confronting opinion, besides that of comparing both families (Kennedys and Oswalds) so blatantly. There are problems here: early on, the stock footage and the freshly shot footage doesn’t seem even close to the same time frame, and sometimes the dialogue could get a little tacky (I’m speaking specifically of Mrs. Oswald’s introduction scene).

But at heart, ‘Parkland’ is a really decent drama about a topic I’ve always been a sucker for. Backed up by great cinematography, and a killer score from James Newton Howard, ‘Parkland’ really is worth a watch. In cinemas, I’m not so sure, but rent it, because it’s at least worth a go.

MY RATING: 7.5 out of 10.

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