Wednesday, 24 January 2018

JFK (4 Stars)

I was recently recommended this film by a friend. I'm thankful to him. It's 26 years since it was first released, and I'd vaguely heard about it, but for some reason I've never been inclined to watch it until now. When the film started I was a bit scared by the 3 hours 26 minutes running time, but I soon found it so fascinating that I couldn't tear myself away.

The film covers a controversial subject. On November 22nd 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Within hours Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested as the prime suspect, but he was never put on trial because he was shot dead on live television two days later.

From the beginning there were doubts about the investigation. Lee Harvey Oswald swore he was innocent, but he was denied access to a lawyer. He was interrogated for 12 hours by the police, but no tapes were made.

Things remained calm, or rather swept under the rug, for the next three years. In 1966 Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans, began to investigate the case. He was unable to name any one person as the shooter, but he was convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the killer. It was possible that he fired the first shot and missed, but the following five shots came from marksmen firing from three different angles. This is in contrast to the official Warren Report that claimed there were only three shots, all fired by Oswald. The evidence was arranged so neatly for the police to find that it looks like Oswald was set up. It's highly unlikely that he could have fired all three shots, even if there had only been three. His military record described him as a poor to medium marksman, and he was shooting from a difficult angle through foliage. Garrison asked three expert marksmen to hit a stationery target from the same room, and none of them succeeded. Lee Harvey Oswald was able to hit a person in a moving car.

Jim Garrison claimed that the assassination was orchestrated by the CIA, assisted by the FBI, the American military, the Mafia and anti-Castro Cuban immigrants. The motive was the dislike of Kennedy's pacifism and his intention to withdraw all American troops from Vietnam.

While it's not certain if Garrison was correct in all of his suppositions, there are too many suspicious circumstances surrounding the case. Many of the primary witnesses died soon after the assassination, some by accidental deaths and some by suicide. Somebody in a position of authority was doubtlessly trying to cover things up.

Do I have an explanation? No. I don't have access to enough information on the subject to form an informed opinion. The official documents on the subject were to be kept sealed until 2029, but their release was brought forward to 2017, with the exception of a small number of documents that President Trump decided should be withheld for a few more years. I expect no revelations from these documents. Anyone who wanted to act illegally made sure that nothing was written down.

The film is obviously one-sided, but it's a good film in its pacing and suspense. It's about as good as any legal drama can be.

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