It’s not really a surprise that the Kennedy Assassination continues to hold so much sway some half century after its occurrence. A young, charismatic President cut off in his prime, a picture-perfect doting wife, and all the mystery and machinations surrounding his death have made for generations of responses to the events of November 22, 1963. This was the death of a president caught in images whose tragedy played out on television, the first modern death of a leader that would quickly take on mythic proportions.
What may be more remarkable is that there are still new things to say at this late date, new and interesting things to draw not just documentary but narrative film interest in. If Stone’s JFK is likely to remain definitive, for better or worse, then films like Parkland fill a welcome (if not exactly mandatory) niche.
The film is episodic in its construction, following the many lives that were shaped due to the events in Dallas. Parkland Memorial is the hospital where the President was taken after having much of his cranium obliterated, and we see the way that those in charge of traumatic medical situations dealt with things as they occurred. We also meet the FBI agents that had been tracking Oswald prior to the assassination, the man who shot the famous 8mm film of the events, and perhaps most interestingly we follow the events that occupied the brother of the alleged assassin.
With a cast that includes a veritable constellation of talent, from Zac Effron and Paul Giamatti to Marcia Gay Harden, Ron Livingston, Bill Bob Thornton and Jackie Earle Haley, we’re exposed to these various timelines in crosscut fashion. All do the work justice, and save for some brief moments do so with credible restraint.