Once again, the cinematic Wayback Machine is set for November 22, 1963, at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. At this point in time, two very different personalities - the charismatic American president and a tragically disturbed ex-Marine - find themselves in a fatal encounter that will continue to resonate for more than a half-century.
This production, which was broadcast on the National Geographic Channel, provides a dignified if slightly dull adaptation of the best-seller by Fox News bloviator Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. To its credit, the film attempts to offer a sincere picture of John F. Kennedy during the final stretch of his life, where an endless series of political crises and a somewhat shaky personal life created a White House that was closer to chaos than Camelot. Running concurrent to the Kennedy drama is an equally sincere attempt to decipher the mystery of Lee Harvey Oswald, whose world was quickly spinning into a violent mess of extremist politics and emotional isolation before he took his rifle to the Dallas Book Depository.
Under Nelson McCormick’s direction, Rob Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin offer decent performances as President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, while Will Rothhaar manages to suggest the inner turmoil of Oswald with as much subtlety as possible; Michelle Trachtenberg plays Oswald’s Russian wife Marina with a convincing accent and the appropriate air of gloom. Jack Noseworthy, however, hits a few off-key notes as Robert F. Kennedy and Casey Siemaszko never quite registers as Oswald assassin Jack Ruby.
But the real problem here is that the film offers absolutely nothing new regarding the Kennedy assassination. Mercifully, it avoids the zany conspiracy theories espoused by Oliver Stone, but it also lacks the intellectual depth that graced many documentaries that were released last year in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the crime. Unfortunately, it merely repeats a story that has been told repeatedly since 1963. There’s nothing here that is unsatisfactory, but there’s also nothing here that is new and noteworthy.
Blu-ray/DVD combo pack
$29.99, 87 minutes
20th Century Fox
Bonus features: original and extended version of the film; making-of documentary; interview with Bill O’Reilly; short documentary "The Kennedy Mystique."