It was with some disgust, after this reviewer saw this movie for the third time, noting Netflix’s DVD certainly had more material on it than he had seen on other “uncut” versions, that he was to read The New York Times critic’s (Vincent Canby,) comment: “The film’s insurmountable problem in (is) the vast amount of material it fails to make coherent sense of….”. Although this could quite honestly be said of the Warren Commission findings and how it circumvented much of its own investigations to “prove”, as its inceptor, Chief Justice Earl Warren, stated from its very beginning, “this is not the kind of place where such things happen” (as conspiracies to murder a president,) it is neither a fair statement to make, nor accurate in any sense. Did one not know better, and to be charitable, one might suspect Mr. Canby had been snowed in at the South Pole without communications for the last 50 years or so. But of course this can be said of Mr. Dan Rather as well, a news anchor (I won’t apply reporter) Dan Ellsberg once listed in his book as a CIA operative and Eric Severeid, in his autobiography, uses as an example of the “new breed of cat” journalist he first encountered in Saigon during the War. Rather was sporting a shoulder holstered 45 APC and military fatigues while all the other war correspondents wore sport shirts and light pants customary to the tropics.
An ominous quote from the esteemed Ella Wheeler Wilcox graces the movie’s beginning: “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of all men.” Reflected in the movie’s end, “Dedicated to the young in whose spirit truth marches on”, with the retrospect of knowing subsequently, the list of assassinations our country has acquired due to pathological denials such as Rather’s, Canby’s, and entire agencies of the federal government, we come away closer to realizing the warnings President Dwight Eisenhower gave us in his farewell address. Again, graced us in the movie immediately following the opening quote of Wilcox, we are warned of the growing threat to our democracy of a menacing military industrial complex the former president evidently felt significant.
On the eve of elections that might gift us with a new leader whose platform increasingly suggests meaningful change and at a time when war, an incomparable extent of failing financial institutions and runaway inflation create greater and greater public perceptions of need for that change, one tool for denying that change, political assassination, becomes a topic of extreme import.
There was another assassination shortly before that of JFK’s many forget about, that had, as well, to do with streamlining America towards war with North Viet Nam. That was the murder of South Viet Nam’s president Diem who was decided on allowing full participation to all concerns in the elections promised by the Geneva Accords. Suspiciously, at the very time disinformation was being circulated that placed the assassination on the hands of Fidel Castro, the same disinformants were trying to portray JFK as ordering Diem’s murder. This element is left out of X’s (Donald Sutherland) briefing to Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) just as is the name, Georges de Mohenschildt, that is substituted for a fictitious one regarding where Marina Oswald was staying at the time of the assassination. Other than these changes, the movie pretty well sticks to the actual names and the details of each in their testimony.
Across the board, the acting is superb. Incredible performances are given by Edward Asner, as Guy Bannister and Joe Pesci, as David Ferrie. You might be amazed at the role John Candy takes on as, Dean Andrews. The ultimate irony, however, is the casting of the actual Jim Garrison in the role of Chief Justice Earl Warren. His questioning of Jack Ruby, Brian Doyle-Murray, is taken verbatim from the transcript. Of course, as with so many other witnesses, Ruby was dead long before Garrison’s investigation. As was approximately 74 other witnesses, according to the count of Penn Jones Jr. (Forgive My Grief) in his last volume, long before Garrison became involved. Most of them either murdered or dead from suspicious causes. Today, if brought up to date, the list would be well over one hundred. The real toll, however, is that of the shoring up a secret government in an installation that is untouchable and immune to changes in administration. The very ultimate evil of which President Eisenhower warned.
In the rattle of those that protest the most obvious ramifications the slightest penetration into this matter entails, this reviewer can flatly state with all the self-assurance study can grant, that the prevalent view of sparing America the truth “for its own good” was the greatest treason ever visited upon any modern nation…and the costliest. The men that walked away from this deed with blood on their hands and those that helped to hide them from justice were allowed to distort history and self-perception into some mythic notion they had served some “greater good”. Instead of being what they were, betrayers of a way of life now virtually gone.
Young mean and women of today, see what made those of good conscience weep to hear once. For this is a bell that tolls for thee. See this movie.
Rough language, brief nudity, all over-shadowed by the necessity to know the truth in order to retain even a notion of freedom.