Although I wasn’t alive at the time, I am still able to recognize the effect that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination had on people. That horrible day in Dallas, Texas has gone down in history as one of the worst moments in the United States. President Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was later shot and killed by Jack Ruby. Both victims were taken to Parkland hospital, where doctors tried frantically to save their lives. The only way that the secret service could piece the crime together, was with the footage of the assassination that Abraham Zapruder caught on his camera. That footage is still around and is incredibly unsettling to watch.
On the fateful day of November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. He was immediately rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital and was attended to by Dr. Charles Carrico (Zac Efron). As the Secret Service detail, including Roy Kellerman (Tom Welling) and Kenneth O’ Donnell (Mark Duplass), watched and prayed for the President’s recovery, no such recovery came. Shortly after the shooting, a man named Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong) was arrested for the murder of the President. His brother, Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale), was impacted by his brother’s wrongdoings, but their mother Marguerite Oswald (Jackie Weaver) thought her son was justified in his actions.
While all of this commotion happened behind the scenes, attention was brought to Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), the man with the misfortune of catching the President’s death on tape. Soon after the assassination, Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) approached Mr. Zapruder about the tape. They both watched in horror, as they witnessed the death of the most powerful man in the world. As the two worked to create copies of the footage, FBI Agent James Hosty (Ron Livingston) fell under fire, because he’d been investigating Oswald not ten days before the assassination. Oswald was in custody and the assassination could have been prevented, as far as his boss Gordon Shanklin (David Harbour) was concerned. All these events eventually come full circle and at the end of the day, Oswald is killed by Jack Ruby.
Parkland strives to tell the story of what went on outside of the public eye, after President Kennedy had been shot. Most everyone knows the story of the assassination and the story of the assassins, but the story of Abraham Zapruder and the fact that the FBI had Oswald in custody at one point is always left out. You can go to YouTube and watch the horrific video that was taken that day. We also get a look behind the curtain at the efforts of the Secret Service and of the staff at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Each aspect of the story unravels and manages to keep your interest all the way through. This remarkable, multi-part story, is one that I’m glad got the chance to tell itself.
Veteran actors Giamatti and Thornton excel in their more emotional roles, as well as younger stars Efron, Welling, and Badge, who hold their own in a league of talented co-stars. It’s nice to see Ron Livingston in more prominent roles these days, because he has some great range and great scenes in the film. Jackie Weaver is eerily good in this film and her unsettling performance is the definition of standout. I hold strongly to the belief that the actors and their interactions within each story, are what make Parkland good. There’s not an unconvincing performance in the film and everyone does a fine job working with one another.
While the actors may keep you watching, the story that’s told isn’t done all that well. The film jumps around from story-to-story in no apparent order. Things just happen and then we’re on to another setting and dilemma. Director and Writer Peter Landesman has a funny way of shooting scenes and uses all sorts of camera angles to try to intensify sequences. His dialog doesn’t come across as anything too profound, but some of it seemed unnecessary and silly. Combine that with sequences that don’t transition well and the film becomes harder to care for. The story certainly piqued my interest, but it ends somewhat anti-climatically and falls into the same routines as other films that have retold this story.
In the end, Parkland is 90 minutes of your life, in which you’ll learn more about what happened with the assassination of President Kennedy. You’ll stay for the great acting and the intrigue surrounding them. While you may know most of the story, the film is still fun and informative with what it tries to get across to you. The direction may be off and the story as a whole might not be the best-written one, the film is still enjoyable at its core and will enlighten all kinds of audience members. Plus, our history is always important and it’s never a bad thing to learn more about your country and the events that came to change it. For my money, Parkland is worth a viewing at home, if not in the theater.