Thursday, 8 May 2014

Parkland

On November 22nd 1963 one of the most important moments of the 20th Century occurred. At 12.30pm, as President John F. Kennedy's motorcade slowly made its way through Dealey Plaza, Texas, two shots rang out from a bolt-action rifle. The first entered into the back of his neck, through the front and into his wrist. The second, and ultimately fatal shot, hit the side of his head. The impact was devastating. Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended and charged for the Presidents assassination, who was then himself murdered by Jack Ruby only two days later. The events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy has been the focus on countless books, documentaries and films. From excellent books such as The Kennedy Half Century that explores the lone gunman theory, to more conspiracy centric films like Oliver Stone's J.F.K, we have been fascinated by the events of November 22nd 1963. However, there is one story that is seldom told, the story of the human struggle that immediately followed the injuries Kennedy sustained.


Directed by Peter Landesman and starring Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti and Colin Hanks and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD is Parkland, one of the more interesting J.F.K films out there. Unlike almost every other film on the subject, Parkland follows the events after J.F.K's assassination, and the last efforts to save his life. The film takes place in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. After knowing the President is on his way in, a nurse in the hospital jokingly says, “he's probably got the flu”, completely oblivious as to what just happened in Dealey Plaza. Then the situation becomes shockingly clear. Merely in his second year as a surgical resident, Dr. Charles James Carrico is thrown into the deep end when his job is to save the life of the President of the United States of America. Though the film focuses on Carrico's efforts to save J.F.K's life and the aftermath of his eventual death, Parkland also focuses on various other characters, namely Abraham Zapruder, the man who filmed the assassination on his home-movie camera.


Parkland is above all a tale of human struggle in the midst of utter chaos, and it achieves that mood perfectly. Leading the cast here is Zac Efron of High School Musical fame, but since his days of singing his way from Math class Gym he's been choosing roles a little wiser. Though I never thought I'd say it, Efron delivers a solid and moving performance as Carrico, a young man hurled into a tremendously difficult situation and the same goes for the rest of the cast too, especially the always great Paul Giamatti. I must say, I never knew anything about Abraham Zapruder outside of the "Zapruder film", so I thoroughly enjoyed how Parkland put a spotlight on the man behind the infamous footage. These performances all come under the strict and tight direction of Landesman, who effectively weaves together multiple characters and story lines into a complex, if a little overstuffed film.

The film looks and feels utterly authentic. From the set and costume designs to the soft and touching score by James Newton Howard, Parkland is a huge success. This even extends to the accuracy of the film, and while I'm no historian on the subject, Parkland is apparently close to what actually happened on that faithful day. There's no over-the-top Hollywood embellishing here, no action scenes thrown in for good measure; Parkland is a film worthy of tackling its subject matter, a subject matter that still hurts for many Americans. 

Parkland was produced by Playtone, Tom Hanks' production company who brought us such great TV series as Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Parkland features so many characters within its short running time that many of them are incredibly underused and wasted. For instance, Jackie Earle Haley and Marcia Gay Harden play a priest and nurse respectively, but are only given brief scenes in which to chew up the scenery. It doesn't work. Much like Playtone's TV series, Parkland would have worked wonderfully as an 8 episode mini-series, with each episode focusing on certain characters within Parkland Memorial Hospital. Instead the film tries to juggle all of these great actors and characters within the space of 94 minutes.


Though Parkland should have been a mini-series rather than a film, it's still an interesting, insightful and enjoyable film in its own right. Not only will it shed light on the events at Parkland Memorial Hospital that you most likely never knew about, but you'll also come away from it with a new found respect for Zac Efron. And yes, I never knew I'd say those words either.

Parkland tells the J.F.K story you never knew and gets a 4/5.

[★★★★☆]

Denis Murphy


Parkland at CeX



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