(out of 5)
Released for the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and a more unimportant movie could not possibly have been made on the subject. It covers the moments immediately following the shooting of the President, the horrific nightmare that occurred at the hospital when the staff did their best to save his life, and the lives of those affected in the days following. Zac Efron plays the resident doctor and Marcia Gay Harden the head trauma nurse who are in the room with the man when he is brought in for emergency surgery. Paul Giamatti stars as Abraham Zapruder, whose randomly captured home movie footage has become the central visual record of the event, Billy Bob Thornton, looking tired and unmotivated (and is strangely turning into Don Knotts), plays one of the FBI guys who procure the footage from the exasperated Zapruder, and a terribly weak Tom Welling is the secret security officer who goes into full soldier mode following the trauma. The best subplot is that of James Badge Dale, as always superb, playing Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother adjusting to life after being linked to the most notorious criminal of his era, with an outstanding Jacki Weaver as his batty mother, but it is truly amazing how unaffecting and flavourless the movie is. It neither editorializes on the subject in order to provide some kind of provocative thesis with the aid of time to interpret the memory, nor is it a lean, taut Paul Greengrass-style thriller that avoids speculation and captivates with its recounting the moment-to-moment recreation of the events. A fine cast is wasted in mostly throwaway cameos.
Directed by Peter Landesman
Screenplay by Peter Landesman, based on the book by Vincent Bugliosi
Cinematography by Barry Ackroyd
Music by James Newton Howard
Production Design by Bruce Curtis
Costume Design by Kari Perkins