Millennium / 2013 / 87 mins / PG-13
Just when you thought there were enough movies and documentaries on the historical touchstone of the Kennedy assassination, producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman decide to throw another one into the ring. Based on the book by Vincent Bugliosi, this adaptation follows a few key players in the aftermath of JFK's sudden demise. It provides a solid setup for a few intriguing scenes, but not quite a well-rounded narrative.
The movie begins on the early morning of November 22, 1963 where several Texans are getting ready for the day. Doctor Charles (Zac Efron) preps for another day at Parkland Hospital where he is only a few hours away from operating on the wounded President of the United States. Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) is getting ready to film the Presidential parade, not realizing that today he'll be unintentionally filming a public murder. After the shots are fired, the sadness of loss and urgency for answers set the mood for the rest of the film.
There is a very talented roster for this production including Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden and James Badge Dale. All of them deliver some fantastic performances as they are given some pretty hefty material to work with. The emotion feels real with sorrow, frustration and an uneasy tone with the FBI agents recognizing their failure and the sinking feeling of Oswald's brother. The cinematography gives the fly-on-the-wall feel as we get to be in the room when the doctors finally call JFK's death and when Zapruder first witnesses the developed film of the brutal tragedy.
Parkland is a film for those who specifically wish they could travel back in time to view the inner workings of landmark events. And it covers a lot of ground focusing on the Parkland Hospital, the Secret Service, the FBI agents and even the Oswalds. It focuses not just on the prime moments, but the little ones as well that set the mood. In one scene, the Secret Service decide against storing the President's casket within Air Force One's cargo hold and take apart the seating area to make room.
What makes the film work so well is that it doesn't really take a stance. Director Peter Landesman chose not to focus so much on the people behind the crime, but those who were caught in the wave. In that sense, the movie doesn't actually have a plot or offer anything new as it is more about the reaction of the American people. It's a strange kind of film comprised of scenes that may not form a complete narrative, but are intriguing if nothing else than for the performances.
The 1.78:1 transfer looks surprisingly swell for a film with a bit of the shaky cam going on. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track is solid mix of dialogue and music perfectly balanced.
Included on the disc are a director's commentary track and a handful of deleted scenes.
Parkland is more of an experience than a film with some solid performances that place us right in the middle of the crucial moments following the death of JFK. On that merit, it's worth a watch just for the unique perspective alone. Highly recommended for those who just can't enough of this chaotic event in American history. Just don't go in expecting much of a plot as this is a tale that just doesn't end in the four days that it covers.