JFK [1991] Review: A Riveting Account of an Interesting Conspiracy Theory


Of all the conspiracy theories circulating out there, the assassination of John F. Kennedy (JFK) is arguably the most interesting one. Stemming from the subsequent lack of a clear, satisfying & irrefutable explanation for how the machinations of assassinating the United States President was carried out and what exactly was the motive behind it.

JFK is a 3-hour long political thriller that takes all the theories surrounding the case into consideration, looks for the inconsistencies in the Warren Commission, and then concocts a cleverly structured & masterly edited account that steadily grabs hold of the viewers’ attention, only gets more gripping as plot progresses, and finally concludes by implanting a reasonable doubt in their minds.

The story follows New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison who is skeptical of the official story detailing the Kennedy assassination and starts an investigation of his own to get to the truth. Convinced that there is more to it than meets the eye, his pursuit of how that fateful day came to be and who all were responsible for it soon turns into an obsession that takes a toll on his family & colleagues.

Co-written & directed by Oliver Stone (best known for Platoon), the film starts putting the pieces on the board from the very beginning and goes back n forth with all the information it has at its disposal. The narrative structure is complex plus there is way too much data to process but the way it all comes together in the end to deliver a cinematic jolt only points to the high-quality storytelling at display here.

Stone’s film never claims to be the true account of what transpired on November 22, 1963, but instead, it makes a valid argument, resulting from inaccuracies in the official report, that it is more than just an open-n-shut case. The production design team does a stellar job at recreating the 1960s timeline, especially the Dealey Plaza set piece that’s refined to smallest of details and the camera explores every inch of that location with clarity.

The real highlight for me, however, is the immaculate editing that happens to be perfectly in sync with the verbal narration, cutting to the right footage at just the right time while exhibiting a surprising level of comfort in balancing the different subplots. Add to that, the narrative flow remains smooth throughout and pacing never becomes an issue despite the 188 minutes runtime. The final moments are executed with such finesse that it’s all nail-biting stuff, no less than an instant classic segment.

Boasting an impressive cast of Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Rooker & Sissy Spacek, JFK scores no less in the acting department and is easily uplifted by outstanding inputs from all. Costner is the definite standout, articulating his character’s anger, frustration & obsession with accuracy. The rest of the supporting cast play their roles as per the scene requirements although Spacek’s part is awfully written.

On an overall scale, JFK is an utterly gripping, thoroughly engrossing & surprisingly entertaining political thriller that presents Oliver Stone at the creative height of his filmmaking career, and is one of the finest examples of its kind. A fascinating fusion of focused direction, deft writing, sharp camerawork, tight editing & top-notch performances, the film garners high marks on both technical & storytelling fronts and is every bit worthy of your time & money. Highly recommended.



Singh Sumit

Cinema is my life capsule. Horror is my refuge. Jurassic Park is first love. Lord of the Rings is perfection. Spielberg is GOAT. Cameron is King. In Nolan I trust. Pixar makes my heart sing. Reviewing films is a force of habit. Letterboxd is home. Blog is where I'm currently inactive. HoF just happened to came along.