¨It's the first time that the secret service has lost a president under its watch.¨
I'm actually surprised I enjoyed this film so much considering the bad reviews it has been receiving and my lack of knowledge on the historical details about the assassination of John F Kennedy. There have been many films made about this specific event, but very few have taken this approach where you get to experience things through the eyes of secondary characters and people behind the scenes like the Parkland medical staff that had to attend the president, or Oswald's brother who is shocked to hear his brother has shot the president. The apparently small scaled moments of this tragic event (like how the medical staff decide to keep the president's boxers on during surgery to preserve his dignity, or the urgency with which the Secret Service agents were trying to get a film of the assassination developed, or how Robert Oswald reacts when he hears that his brother is the prime suspect of the murder) are what truly make this film gripping and unique. The film has its flaws such as failing to have narrative cohesion and the characters are underdeveloped at times, but I think it worked really well considering everything happened so fast and these people had to make split second decisions. The overall feeling of chaos and messiness of the events that took place really transcend here as everything happens so fast and the film is reduced to a length of merely 90 minutes. The film follows a semi documentary style that totally works because you can feel the tension and urgency with which they had to deal with during such a catastrophic event. Parkland is Peter Landesman's first feature film and somehow the movie touched me in a way that apparently hasn't touched most audiences or critics. I didn't expect to like this film as much as I did, but I really felt engaged from the very opening scenes up to the very end. It doesn't offer new insight to a popular historical event, but it does tell the story differently. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death this might be a movie worth checking out (just don't go into it thinking you are going to get another Oliver Stone JFK). The film's strongest strength relies on this sense of urgency and how it depicts the events in real time as everyone had to make life changing decisions in a matter of seconds. But it also seems to be its weakness as many consider it to be a little too over the place and chaotic with little cohesiveness.
The film follows the tragic events that occurred in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 involving the assassination of President John F Kennedy. The story focuses on the perspective of the people in the sidelines that witnessed the event first hand like the medical staff in Parkland Hospital that were there that tragic day. Young Doctor Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) was the resident doctor that day in Parkland, and some of the nurses that were there to assist him were Nurse Doris (Marcia Gay Harden) and the emergency room nurse played by Mallory Moye. We get another perspective of that day through the eyes of a small businessman named Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), who happened to capture the assassination on his Super 8 camera. We also see things through the eyes of Dallas's chief of the Secret Service, Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), an FBI agent named James Hosty (Ron Livingston) who was investigating Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong), and Lee Harvey's brother Robert (James Badge Dale) and mother (Jacki Weaver) who react differently to the news about the murder. All these different perspectives are weaved together giving us an engaging film and different insight into what was going on. Tom Welling, Mark Duplass, Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley, and Kat Steffens all play secondary characters in this star studded cast.
There were some strong performances in this film although not really Oscar worthy. I specially liked James Badge Dale in this film who gives a quiet but brave performance, while Paul Giamatti rings true with his emotional performance as he has to deal with the pain of viewing the horrific event he captured on camera. The rest of the cast didn't really stand out considering they all had very little screen time, but it was good to see some of these talented actors working together. Jacki Weaver is a talented actress and she proves it once again in this small role. The cast is solid and the script is also pretty engaging. I was glad everything was depicted so fast and that the film didn't run too long.