The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is one of most widely discussed events in American history so it’s no wonder that the subject has saturated the film industry, and yet even after all these years Hollywood can still provide a fresh perspective on it. Parkland does exactly that with a stellar cast and multiple storylines that relive the events that transpired on that fateful day in Texas.
The film chronicles multiple characters on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. There’s Dr. Jim Carrico (Zac Efron), the Parkland Hospital resident who was the first doctor to work on Kennedy after he was shot. We also see multiple Secret Service and FBI agents work on the case as they attempt to piece together what exactly happened. More notable figures include the man who filmed the assassination, Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), and alleged shooter Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong). All these narratives intertwine together into a single cohesive storyline that covers the assassination and the resulting chaos that follows.
Director Peter Landesman does an excellent job at making Parkland feel real. The film opens with the assassination of President Kennedy and rather than focusing solely on the events that transpired in Dealey Plaza, it jumps straight into the aftermath and how America was affected. Yes, the act of the president being shot is captured, but it doesn’t overwhelm audiences with its presence. It’s a short, yet powerful scene that resonates throughout the entire film.
No doubt President Kennedy was a well-respected man, not just because he was president but because he was a good person. It’s the little things in the film that provide insight into the kind of person he was, like how the Secret Service disregard the mortician and remove the President’s body from the hospital or how they literally cut holes in Air Force One to fix his coffin into the plane.
Another aspect the film captures brilliantly is the time period of the sixties and how the news of the President’s death spread. Things weren’t as instantaneous as they are today and news traveled much more slowly. It wasn’t until the President was put on the hospital gurney that the staff actually knew who they were operating on. Zapruder’s film is the clearest piece of evidence in the case and the FBI and Secret Service attempt to keep things as contained as possible. Technology definitely played an important role, even back then, albeit in a completely different manner.
Parkland provides an interesting and straightforward narrative on the assassination of President Kennedy that doesn’t revolve around conspiracy theories or over-the-top set pieces. While it’s a familiar subject, the stellar ensemble cast makes the film fresh and exciting. It’s a fitting tribute to honor the President during the assassination’s 50th anniversary year.