JFK: 50 YEAR COMMEMORATIVE ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITION
MOVIE: ****1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Kevin Costner as JIM GARRISON
Kevin Bacon as WILLIE O’KEEFE
Tommy Lee Jones as CLAY BERTRAND
Joe Pesci as DAVID FERRIE
Laurie Metcalf as SUSIE COX
Gary Oldman as LEE HARVEY OSWALD
Michael Rooker as BILL BROUSSARD
Jay O. Sanders as LOU IVON
Sissy Spacek as LIZ GARRISON
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Oliver Stone
BY KEVIN CARR
Hitting the streets only days before the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Oliver Stone’s controversial “JFK” get a special release. Featuring a box set limited to 50,000 units, “JFK: The Director’s Cut” doesn’t have much new material to it, but it does feature a compilation for Kennedy fans.
The obvious headliner in the set is the 1991 award-winner “JFK,” which marked a turning point in Stone’s career. It ushered in a new delivery system for his films, featuring a lot of multi-format elements and twisting conspiracy theories. The style of “JFK” colored many of the films that followed (including the better ones like “Natural Born Killers” and the real stinkers like “Nixon”). It also marked one of the best movies of his career.
“JFK” is a three-and-a-half hour behemoth which works better than most three-and-a-half hour films do. The story follows Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) and his crusade to uncover the truth behind the Kennedy assassination. It’s a thick film, weaving the conspiracy web tightly, with many loose ends and even more questions than when the movie begins. But it works, and it has a surprising amount of energy behind the story to keep my interest in the even-longer director’s cut.
One should not take “JFK” completely at face value or with more than a grain of salt when it comes to historical fact. Stone throws a lot against the wall in this movie, and not all of it sticks. But enough does stick to make you question the motivations and truth behind the “official” story of the Kennedy assassination.
Unlike “Nixon,” which is a lumbering mess feigning honor to a President but unsurprisingly coming off as a hit piece, “JFK” is less about the title character and more about the events surrounding his death. There’s a lot of political intrigue, and if you’re not familiar with the geopolitical situation in the early 1960s, it’s not the easiest film to follow.
However, with as much as is tossed around in this film, it’s mostly deserving of its apparently bloated running time. In fact, it’s the character moments with Garrison at home with his wife (Sissy Spacek) where the film slows to a crawl. Watching the plans within plans and the sometimes nonsensical connections made in the conspiracy web is what makes the film most entertaining. It’s an imperfect masterpiece, evidence by the bridge of the film featuring Donald Sutherland as the mystery informant known as X, an extremely long scene that breathes life into the opening of the film’s final act.
With fantastic cinematography, strong performances and a riveting score by John Williams, it’s hard to deny the effect this movie has had. It’s pretty obvious that Stone made “JFK” to change the world, and while the content was pooh-poohed back in ’91 when it came out, the end result is a change. After all, who still believes that Oswald acted totally alone?
The Blu-ray is the same disc that has already been on the market for years, featuring a commentary by Stone, deleted and extended scenes, an alternate ending, the feature-length documentary “Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy” and several interviews, including one with the real X.
The set also comes with two puff pieces about Kennedy: the new “JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later” and the vintage “John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Days of Drums,” which serve more as Kennedy retrospectives and publicity films. There’s also “PT 109” from the Warner Archive collection, a feature-length film starring Cliff Robertson as Kennedy during World War II on his PT boat.
The other new addition to the set is Chapter 6 of his Showtime series “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States,” titled “JFK: To the Brink.” This is more conspiracy noise from Stone, which is interesting yet rehashes a lot of what you see dramatized in his film.
Other non-video elements to the box set includes Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, a Kennedy campaign poster, a small book of Kennedy quotations, a 44-page photo book about “JFK” and a set of photos and correspondence from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.