Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Oliver Stone’s J.F.K. – Is The Truth Out There?

Written by Jim Garrison, Jim Marrs, and Oliver Stone
Directed by Oliver Stone

As of late, I’ve become more and more intrigued with the investigation behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Those reasons are largely due to a personal connection I have to the investigation. I like to view various movies and documentaries and compare what I have heard through those avenues as to what’s been depicted in various films.

Oliver Stone’s J.F.K. was of particular interest to me. I hadn’t seen it before and was curious as to how Stone envisioned what took place. In particular, I was looking for his angle on the connections between the Mafia and the assassination of the President.

The story depicted in this movie is from the perspective of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (portrayed by Kevin Costner). For a variety of reasons, Garrison doubts the official government narrative and begins his own investigation into the assassination. J.F.K. details the effect his investigation had on both his personal and professional life. While he seemed to be the only public official outside of The Warren Commission looking into the circumstances surrounding the assassination and much of the “evidence” that was ignored or tossed aside, his detractors tried everything possible to silence him. Was he on to something? Or was he just grandstanding to try to bolster his own career by hitching his wagon to the Kennedy assassination?

Whatever you believe about the Kennedy assassination, it’s likely J.F.K. will not change that. It might make you stop and think a bit as Stone brings up evidence not heard or talked about elsewhere. Just the fact that so many of the potential witnesses died in the years immediately following the assassination from causes that were not a natural part of life would raise eyebrows for many.

My overall impression was that while J.F.K. raises some questions and some very important ones, Stone tries too hard to turn everyone to his own beliefs, and that is where the movie falters. When the evidence seems to be uncovered during the natural course of the investigation, it flows nicely, even if I found it confusing at times to follow all of the different connections between various parties. When there are long monologues that sound more like someone pontification their own take on what happened in November of 1963, it loses some credibility with me.

That’s not to detract from the bulk of the film at all. The acting in J.F.K. is terrific and lists many well-known actors and actresses among the cast. Aside from Costner, there’s Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Jack Lemmon, Joe Pesci, Sissy Spacek, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, and more. All of the parts are terrifically acted and I didn’t have the feeling that any actor was there and thought he was central to the film. Rather, egos seem to have been put aside to form a well-acted argument for Stone’s view of the conspiracy behind the assassination.

The main problem I had with the film was how it presented the evidence. I found it to be extremely convoluted and hard to follow. Watching J.F.K. a second time with Stone’s commentary helped a great deal in this regard, but I can’t see people like my parents watching the film and actually being able to comprehend the case being made here.

J.F.K. is beautifully filmed with an attention to detail for the locations and settings, helping to really bolster the feel of what happened in the months leading up to the assassination as well as in the years following. Stone’s attention to detail in this regard was very helpful in immersing me in events that happened before I was born.

Personally, I don’t buy a lot of what Stone asserts in this, just because it contradicts a lot of what I have heard. I also have a hard time believing that this “conspiracy” as depicted in the film was able to be pulled off as completely as it was with little to no breakdown of the parties involved. In general, sooner or later someone involved talks. Someone hangs onto evidence that they think will give them an upper hand should his fellow conspirators ever turn on him.

Stone’s detractors are many. It seems to me that well before J.F.K. was released, Stone was being painted as a nutcase. By in large, this depiction of him resonated with the public who seems all too willing to accept the disinformation fed to them on a daily basis about a variety of things. That’s too bad because I think Stone suffers for that as everyone now sees him in a different light and it makes the evidence (which is real and not manufactured) less credible to them. I guess it’s easier to accept that Stone is a nutcase and go back to watching television and chugging beer than to actually have to muster some indignation at how the government engaged in a cover-up of an event like this to the public.

However, if nothing else, J.F.K. shows that there was something going on. There were too many problems with the chain of evidence being compromised. Anyone who’s been watching C.S.I. the last few years will see that. It felt that no other argument outside of Stone’s one take on the assassination was brought to light.

As an aside, the DVD comes with its own player. I hated it and watched only a few moments of it before going back to my WinDVD player. I’ve seen a few discs that do this, and I wish the studios would steer clear of doing this.


• Commentary by Director Oliver Stone
• Cast & Crew
• Awards
Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• Multimedia Essays:
— — — Meet Mr. X: The Personality and Thoughts of Fletcher Prouty
— — — Assassination Update – The New Documents
• Theatrical Trailer

4 replies »

  1. As a film goes, JFK is admirable as a piece of cinematic work. Judged solely on that basis, it is a masterpiece of acting, cinematography, editing, and scoring.

    As a rumination on history…. not so much. I dislike conspiracy theories because most of them tend to fail the smell test. If Stone had settled on a Mafia hit…I might be able to at least consider taking it seriously.

    A government conspiracy that involves the Pentagon, the Secret Service, the CIA, and the FBI? Too huge a number of players… and Stone attributes way too much competence to some of the same agencies that failed to oust Castro or notice that the Soviet Union was building missile sites 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

    If the CIA and FBI could not get their act together to prevent 9/11 due to rivalry between them, they could not have conspired to kill a President without leaving a single trace of evidence.

      • The thing about the “military-industry complex” taking out JFK is, as Spock would say, “illogical.” Kennedy was a big national-security Democrat and presided over one of the biggest increases in defense spending in “peacetime.”

        I am of the opinion that JFK conspiracies (from both the conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum) are a psychological phenomenon. To many Americans, Kennedy’s death at the hands of a loser like Lee Harvey Oswald is simply not acceptable. It’s far easier to believe that JFK was killed by “dark, powerful forces” far greater than an ex-Marine and failed defector with delusions of grandeur.

        The FBI and CIA, as well as the Secret Service, did the American people a disservice by classifying many of the documents re Oswald, JFK, and his assassination. If anything good came out of Oliver Stone’s making of “JFK,” it was the decision to declassify most of that information. From what I understand, what little remains still under wraps is classified by request of the Kennedy family.

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