Rated: PG-13 for bloody sequences of ER trauma procedures, some violent images and language, and smoking throughout. Reviewed by: Jim Frank Release date: October 4, 2013 Released by: Exclusive Releasing
Like the Abraham Zapruder character portrayed by balding, hardworking Paul Giamatti (Turbo, Rock of Ages), Parkland (an ensemble drama sparked by the chaotic swirling of events around John F. Kennedy's assassination) comes across as too overwrought and more uninvolved than you might expect. Given that Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks) is a producer and its antecedent is Vincent Bugliosi's extensive tome.
Tyro helmer Peter Landesman, an author and former journalist, encapsulates the sobering account (it's almost been half a century since November 22, 1963) with more frantic action in the earlier sections around the eponymous Dallas hospital where Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong) were treated. There is conflict between the medical examiner and Secret Service as how to handle the body in the immediate aftermath of the horror with a deeply saddened Jackie Kennedy (Kat Stevens) almost acting like a medical examiner herself in one scene. Then a team of FBI agents almost in slapstick fashion struggle to get the coffin onto Air Force One.
Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden do as much as they can with their underwhelming parts as sleep-deprived resident Dr. 'Jim' Carrico and edgy nurse Doris Nelson who scrambles to get a crucifix. Billy Bob Thornton appears as Secret Serviceman Forest Sorrels who reiterates his regret about probably one of the three greatest tragedies in U.S. history. Giamatti's Zapruder who famously photographed the Dallas visit with his Super 8 mm camera (which was converted to 35 mm film) is busy with newspaper personnel and chemists scrambling to have his film developed.
A conversation between Oswald and his brother Robert, a rather sane James Badge Dale, may provide some interest while hardly getting into the combustible conspiracy mode of Oliver Stone's JFK. No mention of Jack Ruby here. Jacki Weaver (part of the fine cast of "Silver Linings Playbook") brings an off-her-rockers, wry quality to cardigan-clad, heavily accented Marguerite Oswald who avers her son was "an agent of the United States government." The watchable quality demonstrated by the filmmaking may yield more of a morbid, sensationalistic outlook, as fascinating as the material, in its approach, may appear to be.
Among the roster Ron Livingston (The Conjuring) pops up as a potentially more controversial agent and Jackie Earle Haley (Lincoln, Semi-Pro) as a cleric but the approach from a portrait around the assassinations to the impact on those in its immediate orbit takes on less imposing, convincing feel. As professional as the production may be especially to period detail, decor and mores, Parkland stumbles as a poignant cinematic tribute; one that is less persuasive and prescient and edited to less stirring effect than Emilio Estevez's fragmented, sprawling, if ill-fated Bobby whose primary setting was the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel on another fateful day, June 4, 1968.
Parkland is the hospital President John F. Kennedy was carried to after he was shot on November 22, 1963. The film almost in documentary style depicts the affect of and actions taken by the people who were responsible for the President's security, medical procedure and the transition to a new president.
Director Peter Landesman moves us through the shot by Lee Harvey Oswald through the death of Oswald and the return to the capital of the President's body. His use of camera work on location present a feeling to the audience that they are at the location as each dark act occurs.
We are able to observe the response and actions of folks who in carrying out their daily functions as they take on a giant task when called upon to do so. Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder (the man who filmed the shot that killed) is pulled and yanked by differing security folks as well as various news outlets who want access to the film which became one of the most important 8 mm pieces of film in history. Zac Efron as Dr Jim Carrico has the weight of the attempt to save the President once he has been admitted to Parkland Hospital. The candid and graphic scenes are filled with blood flowing from the wounded leader of the free world. Efron and Marcia Gay Harden as the head nurse lead the trauma team both keeping all hope alive and moving observers from the emergency room where the body is probed and pumped.
Billy Bob Thornton is just one of the many public safety agents and police who know they have missed a chance to save the President and want revenge at each other as well as the need to get their hands on Oswald.
Parkland doesn't examine or develop theories it simply shows the actions taken by people who were in the right or wrong place when a public significant crime took place. That action is displayed effectively and for many it leads to the reliving of that faithful day. If you were living on that day the film reminds you of where you were at the time of the shooting and what that day and the next few were like.
Landesman takes the time to point out the challenge between the secret service and the medical examiner over who had charge of the body after death. Also that President Johnson would not leave Dallas with out Mrs Kennedy being present on Air Force One and the secret service being forced to remove seats to make space for the coffin. He also presents the paradox in which the same medical folks who attempted to save Kennedy, two days later were working to save the life of the killer Oswald.
Parkland is a neat narrow piece of history which explains the immediate cause of the end of Camelot.