JFK (1991)

I’ve been to the sixth floor, I’ve walked down Elm Street, I’ve seen the grassy knoll. There’s no doubt in my mind that the American public was lied to about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I won’t presume to know the who, when, and how, but so much of it does not add up to even the most cursory inspection.

Oliver Stone adapts the real-world case led by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) into the involvement of Claw Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) in a potential conspiracy to kill the president. Described as a counter-myth to the Warren Commission, it’s hard to know if there’s much truth to the investigation, but it raises a plethora of questions.

How did a lone gunman fire three shots from a bolt-action rifle in under six seconds? How did one bullet create 7 wounds and somehow was found in almost pristine shape? Why were there so many reports of more gunshots and smoke from the grassy knoll? Why did so many people who offered a different narrative end up dead?

Given that so much of the investigation is classified and handled by parties that have it in their best interest to not have this investigated farther than it has been, it may be years before the American people discover the truth…assuming those documents don’t mysteriously disappear before being declassified.

Whether or not Garrison’s investigation is true, it explores the heart of the many theories spawned by the JFK assassination: the web of lies, half-truths and missing evidence fed to the American people by the government. It’s a disillusionment of the American system of justice, a look at how the letter of the law and proper investigations were not followed, how everything behind the scenes was manipulated to set everything up perfectly.

This film is an offspring of All the President’s Men and a progenitor to Zodiac, a descent into a web of intrigue and an unhealthy obsession for the truth. The meticulous attention to detail and the dark paranoia that sweeps the film’s protagonist crafts a compelling look at the underbelly of society and even how a quest for justice can be terrifying.

The film is put together so slickly that its beefy runtime flies by. Sharply edited, mixed with recreations and archived footage, the whole thing plays as both a document and a potential fiction. It’s a fascinating yarn that explores the most contentious event in American history.

As I walk Elm Street and look up to the window, there’s a Texas oak blocking the window, the kind that keeps its leaves most of the year. The angle seems tight and doesn’t line up with the footage or the wounds. There are people on the sidewalk with signs positing some theory, other people run into the street to take pictures where Xs are placed for each gunshot. Some people wander the grassy knoll. The whole thing is ridiculous. Things don’t add up. The bigger the lie, the easier it is to believe.

© James Blake Ewing 2017