Monthly Archives: December 1991


Oliver Stone’s controversial epic is a powerful, somewhat dizzying exploration of a monumental American tragedy in microscopic detail. Kevin Costner is Jim Garrison, the New Orleans DA who, in 1966, began a case against what he deemed to be a conspiracy involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, dealt with witness tampering and murder, and settled on a beloved New Orleans businessman (Tommy Lee Jones) as the one prosecutable offender. Stone gathers a top-notch supporting cast, including Costner, Jones, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Ed Asner, Jack Lemmon, Donald Sutherland, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, Jay O. Sanders, Laurie Metcalf, Wayne Knight, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Sissy Spacek. Stone and co-screenwriter Zachary Sklar, working from two books (one by Garrison, the other by Jim Marrs), weave an astonishing web of speculation, fact and (possibly) revisionist history in order to raise some important questions and simply consider the possibility that Lee Harvey Oswald (Oldman) was a patsy; the effect is sometimes overwhelming (Pesci describes the plot at one point as “a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma”), but fascinating and ultimately brilliant, even making a convincing argument that this was a conspiracy. The film is not simply a dry docudrama, but is in fact a glorious physical construction, with remarkably complex editing by Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia, and dazzling cinematography by Robert Richardson, employing 35mm, 16mm, 8mm, color, black and white, video and all sorts of tricks of lighting. Oliver Stone (“Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July”) is a fearless filmmaker, not afraid to ask the uncomfortable but indispensible questions, and his film is a masterpiece. NOTE: The 206 minute Director’s Cut is on DVD. The film won Oscars for Editing and Cinematography.

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