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Even though I was born after the incident took place, I have never really believed that a lone gunman could have pulled off the assassination of President Kennedy. I know that I am not alone in that belief, with other better informed individuals proposing conspiracy theories since the 1960s. Director Oliver Stone's powerful 1991 film JFK ($25) takes a long hard look at the evidence and proposes theories, which shoots holes in the official government report on the assassination. Despite the fact that JFK some dramatic license with events and characters, the film takes does present its audience with enough evidence to make viewers question the official government line. JFK is based upon the book On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison, which tells the story of the only person to launch a prosecutorial case in relation to the assassination of President Kennedy.

Kevin Costner gives the best, most impassioned performance of his career portraying earnest New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who launches his own investigation into the assassination of JFK after the government issues their own report. Through the course of the investigation, Garrison uncovers some startling truths about how the government operates, as well as reasons why powerful people, both inside the government and on its outer fringes, might want to eliminate President Kennedy. Eventually, Garrison brings a case against Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones), a shadowy figure who may or may not have ties to the CIA. Director Oliver Stone fills JFK powerful imagery that recreates historic events, in addition to his repeated use of the explosive piece of film that shows the actual assassination of John F. Kennedy. The first rate cast of JFK also features Sally Kirkland, Kevin Bacon, Joe Pesci, Walter Matthau, Sissy Spacek, Laurie Metcalf, Edward Asner, Jack Lemmon, Vincent D'Onofrio, Gary Oldman, Brian Doyle-Murray, Wayne Knight, Michael Rooker and the late funnyman John Candy in a surprisingly good dramatic turn.

Warner Home Video has issued JFK in a special edition director's cut that incorporates 17 minutes of additional footage not found in the theatrical version. Running a whopping 205 minutes, the director's cut doesn't leave room on the DVD for many supplements, so a second disc is included inside the packaging. Warner's choice of packaging for the two-disc set is rather inelegant and doesn't offer much protection for the second disc should there be a shipping mishap. For this release, JFK has been given a brand new wide screen transfer that enhances the presentation for playback on 16:9 displays. Image quality is quite good, however director Oliver Stone has utilized various types of film stock, including some 8mm in the movie. Additionally, JFK jumps back and forth from black and white to color footage, which gives the presentation has uneven, disconcerting quality that has a jarring effect on the viewer. The new transfer handles every cinematic trick deployed by Stone and cinematographer Robert Richardson's equally well. Because the picture is intentionally soft and grainy in places, no one would ever consider this DVD demonstration material, however the transfer accurately renders the filmmaker's intentions. Colors vary from quite muted to fully saturated; however, there are no signs of chromatic distortion anywhere during the presentation. Blacks are accurate looking, with the level of shadow detail running from respectable to quite good, depending on the footage in question. In spite of the film’s extended running time, there are no problems with digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mix is very effective. JFK is primarily a dialogue driven film, yet the sound effects are well placed and cleanly rendered. The surrounds come to life during key moments, as well as providing ambience and musical fill throughout. Dialogue reproduction is crisp and fully intelligible. The bass channel lays a solid foundation for the track, but never really calls attention to itself. John Williams' excellent score is one of the strongest sonic elements of the sound mix and is reproduced with very high musical fidelity. A French 5.1 channel track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as supplemental materials. On disc one, Oliver Stone provides an insightful running audio commentary that discusses the film; it's theories on the assassination, as well as the controversy that the film stirred up upon its release. This is a very good commentary track and is definitely worth the time investment. Disc two holds the bulk of the supplements and is well worth getting aquatinted with. There are 12 deleted/extended scenes that are offered to complement the release of the director's cut of JFK. At 205 minutes, I doubt any more material could have been added back into the body of the film, so it is nice to see what Stone was forced to trim away from this engrossing film. These deleted/extended scenes can be viewed with or without Oliver Stone's comments. There are two multimedia essays on the DVD, which look at the history of the assassination and how the film has effected its aftermath. Meet Mr. X: The Personality and thoughts of Fletcher Prouty is a series of interviews with an individual in the film who provided information to Garrison concerning "the conspiracy." Assassination Update- The New Documents provides a look at how the film forced the government to declassify certain documents related to the assassination earlier than the proposed year of 2029. A theatrical trailer closes out the video portion of the supplements. JFK is a DVD-ROM enabled disc, with web links, a collection of reviews and is geared up for a future on-line event.

JFK is a powerful, albeit controversial motion picture about one of he most unforgettable events of the 20th century. No matter where you stand in regards to "the conspiracy," this is an important movie that is worth seeing at least once. Warner has produced an excellent DVD release of JFK that no Oliver Stone fan will want to be without. Highly recommended.


JFK (Special Edition Director's Cut)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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